LUSAKA – Zambia has asked Vedanta Resources’ Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) to delay the processing of copper concentrate it imported from Chile until it puts in place safety measures to avoid pollution, Zambia’s deputy minister of mines said on Thursday.
KCM said on June 3 it had imported its first semi-processed copper from Chile to ensure its Nchanga smelter operates at full capacity.
Deputy minister Richard Musukwa said the government had asked KCM not to start processing the Chilean copper concentrates because they had high levels of arsenic, a toxic substance.
Musukwa told parliament the level of arsenic in copper concentrates mined in Zambia was 1 percent but the material imported from Chile had a level of around 4 percent.
“When we noticed that these concentrates from Chile had 4 percent arsenic, we instructed KCM not to proceed with the processing until appropriate safety measures are taken,” he said.
KCM bought 5 000 t of copper concentrates from Chilean state-run firm Codelco and will smelt the semiprocessed material at the Nchanga smelter, which has an annual production capacity of 311 000 t.
Musukwa said KCM resorted to imports of copper concentrates because its Nchanga smelter was operating at only about half its capacity.
KCM has been blending its concentrates with those from other local mines and the Democratic Republic of Congo but these have not been enough to reach the Nchanga smelter’s capacity.
Copper production in Zambia, Africa’s second-largest producer of the metal, dropped to 708 000 t in 2014 from 760 000 t in 2013.