Makayi becomes the country’s first female head in a mining exploration company

In Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest producer of copper, which is in high demand for the transition to a low-carbon economy, Mfikeyi Makayi will be the most senior woman yet in the mining sector.

Silicon Valley start-up KoBold Metals, which uses artificial intelligence to identify battery metal deposits, has appointed a woman as CEO of its copper unit in Zambia, making her the country’s first female head in a mining exploration company.

Top female executives at global metals and mining companies held just over 11% of C-suite positions in 2022, data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows.

“I am the first Zambian woman running an exploration or even a mining company in the country… (Mining) is something that will drive our economy into the future if we get this right,” Makayi said in an interview.

Makayi, whose home country is Zambia, has a master’s degree in mining engineering from Britain’s Camborne School of Mines and worked for Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals and Caterpillar before taking up her leadership role in Zambia.

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema aims to boost the country’s copper production to 3 million tonnes a year by 2032, from around 850,000 tonnes last year.

Hichilema said in a statement “KoBold Zambia, with Mfikeyi at the helm” would play a critical role in achieving the country’s ambitions to increase copper output.

KoBold, which has exploration partnerships with mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto, is backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate and technology fund founded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and supported by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson.

Its Mingomba copper project in Zambia contains 247 million tonnes of ore with a high grade of copper and requires around $1 billion in investment to be built. It is a joint venture with Australian private equity firm EMR Capital and state-backed miner ZCCM-IH

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