Kabwe mine dispute delaying reopening

By Potipher Tembo

THE controversy surrounding the reopening of Zambia’s largest zinc and lead mine located in Kabwe, Central Province, has persisted for too long and should be resolved.

The mine was closed way back in 1994 for economic reasons and has been a centre of controversy as many conglomerates have promised to resurrect the mine which has been ‘dead’ since it was bought.

Legal intricacies have prevented many listed foreign companies from reopening the mine.

Based on a closure report by previous owners, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investments Holdings in 1995, the underground resource grades of selected ore bodies at the mine amounted to 51 million tonnes at a grade of 3.12 per cent zinc and 0.89 per cent lead.

Total investment then was expected to be US$15 million over three to five years.

In March 2008, the Zambian government said it was committed to the revival of mining activities in Kabwe once some of the mine ownership cases that were pending in the courts of law were disposed of.

Then Mines and Minerals Development Deputy Minister, Maxwell Mwale said a number of investors had shown interest in the exploration of lead, zinc and copper in Kabwe and areas surrounding the district but the government was still waiting for some of the cases to be concluded.

Mr Mwale had said Kabwe still had great potential for mining investments and the government would continue to attract mining and other investors to the town.

The minister said this referring to wrangles between mining companies over ownership of the mine.

In November 2012, London listed Berkeley Mineral Resources planned to reopen the mine but failed because of legal reasons.

Berkeley Mineral Resources (BMR) general manager, Dennis Human promised that the mine would be reopened in 2013 and would be operated by Zambia-based Enviro Processing Limited (EPL), a 100 per cent subsidiary of BMR.

“EPL is currently doing mineralogy and metallurgical task work in China to ascertain the best process to optimise recovery rates. These tests should be completed by December 2012, after which a processing plant would be commissioned during 2013,” said Mr Human.

He said EPL would produce zinc and lead oxides by processing the tailings dumps. But because of legal proceedings, this could not be fulfilled.

In June 2007, controversy over the ownership of the mine persisted with another claimant, Ringa Investment, coming forward and insisting they were the rightful owners of the mine.

Coincidentally in the same month, other two firms, Albert Mining and Mineral Explorations (AMME) and Leopard Exploration and Mining (LEM) claimed ownership of the mine.

Ringa Investments Corporation Affairs manager, John Ziba said the company had a mining licence which was granted to it six years earlier.

LEM also stated that they had been issued with an exploration licence number PLLS 200 on October 20, 2006, barely a week after AMME announced it was pumping in an investment of US$35 million in the mine to revamp its operations.

Eleven years have passed since the Kabwe mine was closed and the court cases do not seem to be anywhere near being resolved.

It is pertinent that these court cases are dealt with once and for all to revive the mine.

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