Kalumbila Minerals To Build New Airport In North Western Province

The coming of First Quantum Minerals Limited in the emerging ‘new Copperbelt’ of  North Western ProvinceA has brought with it a ray of hope for the growth of the area, once perceived ‘docile’ and lacking development. 

Among other projects underway besides the existing Lumwana, Kansanshi mines, is another project underway that is expected to inject a new lease of life in the areas coupled with the resettlement and empowerment of the people who will benefit from the company’s deliberate policy to ensure the settlers benefit from its investment under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. 

Kalumbila  Minerals Limited (KML),  a unit of First Quantum Minerals plans to construct an airport in North-Western Province at a cost of over US$2 million to facilitate the movement of people and goods for the development of the Trident project in Solwezi once the project is approved, the company says. 

The company which is undertaking a more than US$1.5 billion mining project expected to come on stream in the next 12 months is also engaged in the development of potentially three new copper mines, known as Trident Project, the Times of Zambia reported citing an Environmental Impact Assessment report submitted to Zambia Environmental Agency (ZEMA). 

The airport, estimated at a total cost of US$2,067,676, will besides easing the transportation of goods and services to the mining project, will also be expected to assist in the promotion of the tourism industry in the province, which has remained untapped. Once approved, the project is expected to be undertaken in 18 months with a forecasted 40 jobs to be created.

In order to improve regional and international connectivity with the Trident project, KML have proposed to construct an airport and associated infrastructure capable of handling larger passenger numbers as well as larger cargo aircraft,” the paper reports citing the EIA. 

According to developers of the airport, the project development phases will involve preparation, construction and operation. Under the preparation phase, the project will include site selection and clearing, and subsequent development of the 2,700-metre long and 42-metre wide airport.

Additionally, the airport project will involve the construction of a fuel storage area, parking, terminal building and a control tower which will be designed and constructed by KML. It is however, likely to be transferred to and operated by a third party during the operation phase.

“…To maintain maximum safety at the airport, it will be necessary to carry out clearing activities around the airport, especially during the rainy season. This will aid visibility and prevent wildlife encroachment,” the report says.

Additionally, the project is also expected to have positive and negative impacts on the environment and the economy of Zambia. It is hoped the project will have positive impacts on the local, regional and national level resulting in improved regional transport, tourism and economy of the project area.

The EIA however, notes that the project, while under construction may have negative effects on the environment including air pollution, land degradation and ecological disturbances. 

Background

Kalumbila, located in Chief Musele‘s area in Solwezi has been a community of few economic opportunities. Its inhabitants are mainly small-scale farmers subsisting on slash and burn shifting cultivation producing cassava, fishing and collecting mushroom.

The 8,337 hectares of land lying between the Bushingwe National Forest to the west and Lualaba National Forest to the east and south is now an area of mining activity with an investment of US$1.8 billion. It is a massive mining operation in a remote underdeveloped area.

An estimation of 14,500 truckloads of construction steel material and earth moving equipment have replaced 566 households mainly comprising of mud and grass-thatched huts that had been dotted around  Miombo Forest.
The mining area is bustling with various activities with a plant currently assembling Japanese-made Komastu tippers and graders depicting the massive investment that has been poured into the project, according to a recent independent research.

The research cites Kalumbila Minerals Limited (KML) Trident project Assistant General Manager Tristan Pascall as saying the mine is investing in bigger equipment to reduce costs of production.

“The copper ore here is low grade of about 0.51 per cent and we will need to process 10 times material than at Kansanshi to get one ton of copper. To have such a mining activity operate efficiently we must invest in economies of scale.”

The equipment being unutilised in the construction of the ‘Greenfield mine’ include a caterpillar shovel costing $28 million that will run on electricity to reduce the cost of diesel.

First Quantum Minerals (FQM), owners of the Kalumbila project, have made an upfront payment of  $200 million to the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation to have a power-line from Lusaka, through Mumbwa and Kasempa districts, to Musele area in Solwezi constructed.

On the other hand, workers are welding steel and erecting concrete walls into sky-reaching structures that will form part of the mine’s copper and nickel processing network that when fully operational, is forecast to produce 300,000 tons of copper every year, employing 2,700 people, according to the implementers of the project.

Additionally, a few kilometers away from the Sentinel mining site, a town of 10,000 modern housing apartments is coming up under the KML project, with 300 of those units already completed and occupied. Realising the potential of the new mining areas, banking services are already underway with Stanbic bank planning to open a branch there while Total is currently constructing a filling station to provide petroleum products. A three-storey hotel is also under construction.

“With 10,000 houses, the area will have about 50,000 residents and create jobs for taxi drivers, garbage collectors and domestic workers,” Pascall adds.

“There is going to be a big customer base for retail business and we expect more people to open shops.”

The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) is reportedly having approved the Multi-Facility Economic Zone for Kalumbila, which is expected to attract diversified industries to sustain the local community beyond the life of the mine. However, all the forecasted growth of Kalumbila mine and housing and business projects will be based on when the land lease titles are approved to ensure that the area is owned by individual businesses and residents even after the mine is closed.

Pascall attributes the motivation for such investment to the confidence that the mining company to Zambia’s stable investment climate, he is cited as saying during his recent meeting with North Western Province Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga that Zambia is an attractive destination for foreign investment. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Mindful of its CSR, Kalumbila is working with the local people to take care of its settlers. Many of these are farmers living on the southern part of the mine who have been equipped with techniques on conservation farming while others have been resettled north of the mine, five kilometres from the new town.

Displaced families were given options,” said Alex Mapapayi, KML resettlement and community engagement manager. “Those who wanted to continue with their agriculture life opted to settle to the southern resettlement area while those who wanted a modern town life accepted to settle in the northern part.

The northern resettlement area will have 347 households whereas the southern part will accommodate 181 households. In addition, 99 households accepted compensation and relocation”. He said of the resettlement package totaling US $11.6 million.

Permanent Secretary Malupenga is elated with the Kalumbila investment, reports say and is hopeful the investment at Kalumbila will produce huge returns for both the mining owners and to government in terms of taxes and contributions to job creation with a call to stakeholders to focus on the positive aspects of the project, which has suffered negative publicity in the past.

“It is undoubtedly a huge investment that will bring huge returns both to the investor and government. Therefore we need to focus more on the positives of the project and learn from the negatives.”

The Trident mining project is expected to be fully operational by mid 2016 with an initial workforce of 2,700 people and will start paying taxes in 2017.

Since its commencement, the project has created more than 4,000 job opportunities, with 81 percent of those being local people. Project developers seek to ensure that each of the families resettled have at least one or two members of their family employed by the mine.

Trident project also seeks to open Musele Chiefdom for further infrastructure development opportunities which is envisaged to induce more development of the area in various sectors including the upgrading of access roads, building of an airport, mobile telecommunication infrastructure, and modern health and education facilities.

Timber from the clearing of the bushes at the mine, too, is being processed from a modern sawmill to be used to make furniture at a workshop that is recruiting and training local youths in carpentry and joinery, creating a multiplier effect on the development of Solwezi  and the country’s community, according an independent research undertaken recently. 

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