The Brettonwood institution and global lender, International Monetary Fund (IMF), has regretted that the mining and copper sector in Zambia has remained dormant despite its potential to be the country’s major foreign exchange earner and bolster infrastructure development.
Deputy IMF director for Africa David Owen noted that despite the mining potential to generate revenue for Zambia and sustain the economy, the sector has remained under-utilised.
Speaking after he toured Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Zambia’s main copper producer mining in Northern Copperbelt recently, Owen said mining which had historically remained a dominant earner of foreign exchange through minerals exports, would continue to be a key driver of the economy, although there was need to diversify.
“As production is projected to ramp up, it (mining) will be a potential source of revenue that will be used to finance infrastructure development and other industry can develop from mining,” Owen said in a statement released by the mining company’s spokeswoman, Joy Sata and availed to the Zambian Mining News.
He noted that while the mines could be of direct benefit to various industries that supply goods and services, the Government should consider realizing real returns from the sector to upgrade its infrastructure development programmes embarked upon in the 14 million populated African state.
He called for diversification from traditional mining to other sectors including agriculture, tourism, among others to bolster economic growth and meet the aspirations of the people.
“It will also be important for Zambia to diversify the economy in order not to be dependent entirely on mining,” he said.
And IMF resident representative in Zambia Tobias Rasmussen, lauded the mining company for its high safety standards and impressive operational technological advancements. The magnitude of the KDMP operation was impressive, including the pumping out of 350,000 cubic metres of clean water every day, the bulk of which is allowed to flow into the Kafue River via canals, while the rest is provided to Chililabombwe town for domestic use.
Rasmussen said investors in the mining industry and other players including the government required to find optimal solutions for the mutual benefit of mine owners and the country and that it would be good for all involved in mining to continue with the expansion seen in recent times and ensure efficiency in operations to boost productivity.
“The previous increase in production has been an important driver and helped to raise incomes and living standards. The important thing is to ensure continuation, and also broad growth to ensure everybody benefits from mining,”
During the familiarization trip to the KCM, the IMF officials also visited the state-of-the art Nchanga smelter in Chingola built at US$300 million.
According to a recent report by the mine experts, KCM currently pumps an average of 300 000 m3 /daily, making it one of the wettest mines in the world.
The ore hoisted to surface ratio currently stand at 1:49. Mine drainage is thus a major cost in mine planning and development, accounting for about 10-15 percent of the mine operating unit cost.
Against this background, an elaborate mine drainage and water control system has been developed over the years to facilitate safe mining and constantly reduce mine drainage costs.
The main features of the system are described focusing mainly on key aspects of, hydrogeological setting, mining method, dewatering approach, the report said.
It adds that the mine development is done through high-water-bearing rocks, drain drives development and location with respect to the mine aquifers and orebody, and mine water control and pumping systems.
The system has provided the mine with 85-90 percent controllability of the total mine water inflow.
Konkola Underground Mine is the most northerly of the Zambian Copperbelt mines, and is 450 Kilometres northwest of Lusaka the capital city.
It is ZCCM’s fourth largest copper mine, currently producing an annual average of 2.23 million tonnes of ore at 2.7 percent