Swiss-based commodity trader, Glencore Xstrata’s planned commissioning of the US$323 million synclinorium shaft at its Nkana operations in Kitwe is earmarked for next year as it seeks to boost production.
Mopani Copper Mine, Zambia’s second leading producer of copper and cobalt seeks to increase the lifespan of the Nkana mine by 25 years and boost output of the red metal.
The sinking of the shaft to desired levels will enable the company increase production from the current 3.4 million metric tonnes of core to 600 million metric tonnes of ore per annum, according to Glencore.
Company operations manager for exploration projects Wellington Makumba told delegates at the two-day Zambia International Mining and Energy Conference in Lusaka that efforts have been stepped up to ensure the lifeblood shaft comes on stream by next year as the company steps up efforts to remain competitive.
There has been a huge resource which has been defined within the Nkana Synclinorium project, Makumba added. Approximately 10,000 direct jobs have been created while an additional 500 jobs have also been created during the construction phase.
According to the developers, Mopani Copper Mines, the project has been sunk to a depth of 1,235 metres below sea level with the actual depth of the estimated at 1,277 metres-leaving a paltry 42 metres before completion and subsequent commissioning.
“We only have 42 meters of surface to complete,” Makumba added.
It is envisaged that as a result of the new shaft there will also be reduced operations of cost and increased corporate social responsibility activities in various sectors of the economy, Mopani being one of the leading miners in social investment in Zambia-having undertaken various projects.
However, the company has had its own challenges in constructing the new shaft relating to advanced terms of drilling which is as a result of the explosives used to sink the shaft as desired.
“The project is on scheduled despite challenges faced, by February 2016…….we are certain that by next year, the Nkana Synclinorium shaft will be commissioned,” he said.
“There has also been retention of labour of approximately 10,000 direct jobs and creation of additional 500 jobs during the construction phase,” he said.
The company has positioned itself to be among the major contributors to Zambia’s projected copper production upsurge.
The project which started in September 2011 is almost complete with main shaft winder and substation done while emergency generator building is also almost complete.
The investment in the Synclinorium is in addition to the US$500 million invested by the company in setting up a new smelter at its Mufulira mine, which will capture the sulphuric acid emissions (centa) while the acid will be recycled for operational purposes at the more than 84-year-old mine.
The company has a labour force in excess of more than 15,000 employees, having grown from about 10,000 workers recently as the company continues to expand its operations in Africa’s leading copper producer.