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Roan’s success to be duplicated in north

SABLE REFINERY The north of Jubilee’s Zambian footprint presents the opportunity to more than double the copper-producing capacity of its 14 000 t/y Sable refinery, which forms part of the company’s southern refining strategy

LEON COETZER Jubilee realises that it can dream much bigger in Zambia

PROJECT ROAN Roan is entering a ‘critical phase’, as Zambia enters its rainy season

18th November 2022

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor


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With diversified metal recovery business Jubilee Metals Group’s flagship copper processing project, Project Roan, in Zambia, reaching nameplate throughput last month, the company is aiming to replicate a similar model at a larger scale at its northern refinery.

Roan is part of Jubilee’s southern copper refining strategy, and the predominant supplier of concentrates, produced from perceived waste (material previously regarded as too complex or off spec), to the company’s copper and cobalt Sable refinery, which is adjacent to Jubilee’s Kabwe tailings resource.

“As this concept is now proven, it offers us the opportunity to learn from the south and review the potential scale of our northern refining strategy, which comprises Project Lechwe, near Ndola, and Project Elephant, in the Kitwe area,” Jubilee CEO Leon Coetzer tells Mining Weekly.

The copper cathode produced in the south of the company’s Zambian footprint – about 12 000 t/y – is really an example of what can be done in the north, rather than Jubilee’s target, he highlights.

The copper-producing capacity of the south is dictated by the 14 000 t/y Sable refinery, which Jubilee bought from globally diversified natural resource company Glencore in 2019.

“As with the south, we have the opportunity to acquire a refinery in the north. But that decision will dictate the capacity of the north, where we have the luxury of a very large quantity of material. It’s not resource limited, but instead the capacity will be informed by the capacity of the refinery site being targeted.”

Through Project Lechwe, Jubilee has secured the rights to about 150-million tonnes of copper-containing surface tailings, while Project Elephant comprises a 114-million-tonne tailings resource.

“We’ve learned from the south and we realise that we can dream much bigger in Zambia. This big dream for the north is supported by accurate research, development and planning together with the potential to significantly increase the tailings resources already secured by Jubilee,” explains Coetzer.

Thereby, Jubilee needs to decide whether to proceed with the initial 15 000 t/y of copper cathode production guaranteed for the north or exceed this target, as the north has the potential to produce more than 30 000 t/y if a copper refinery is built from scratch.

“This decision dictates the size of the concentrators we will invest in to concentrate the material,” says Coetzer.

However, the success of the Sable pilot plant trialling the leaching of finely ground copper sulphide concentrates will result in the technology being integrated into the northern solution to enable Jubilee to directly produce copper cathode, which would normally be produced by smelting a concentrate in a furnace, he adds.

“It offers us the opportunity to be less restrictive in the type of material that can be processed. This will enable us to migrate our business from processing only waste to, in time, using our facilities to process third-party material and our waste. It offers us a dramatic increase in flexibility, and a significant increase in targeted copper supply sources.”

Further, Jubilee is leaning towards implementing dedicated cobalt and copper refining footprints, whereas in the south, the company has an integrated cobalt and copper refinery.

Such a development would be significant for Zambia, as the country has no independent copper or cobalt refineries for waste and perceived waste, adds Coetzer.

As the company pursues its northern refining strategy, it will battle the same supply bottlenecks and adverse macroeconomic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic that hindered Roan’s completion.

“We’ve basically stumbled from Covid into the knock-on effects of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. So, whatever recovery we saw in supply chain lines has, again, been thrown into chaos,” explains Coetzer.

However, having adjusted its mindset to tackle these challenges amid the pandemic, Jubilee is well placed to realise its northern refining strategy, which is larger and more complex than Roan, he adds.

Roan on Track

While Jubilee is on track to produce 10 000 t of copper for the full financial year ending June 2023, Coetzer says the project is entering a “critical phase”, as Zambia enters its rainy season.

“This is a crucial test that will help us ensure that the facility is designed to cope with these wet operating conditions.”

To meet its 10 000 t production target, Jubilee has secured an independent water licence for Roan, whereby it has invested in infrastructure to safeguard the project’s water supply to ensure that the copper concentrator can maintain throughput.

In light of persistent supply chain challenges, Jubilee’s engineers have also had to devise innovative methods to overcome mechanical challenges to maintain certain operating equipment at Roan to address the breakdowns experienced during Roan’s implementation.

Meanwhile, since entering the Zambian market in 2019, Jubilee, which employs more than 1 000 groupwide, has employed almost 650 people and is set to surpass this figure as it starts implementing its northern refining strategy this year and tackles the “evils of the past”.

Coetzer says there are more than 1.8-billion tons of copper tailings dumps in Zambia and Jubilee is positioning itself to become a partner of choice by driving fair and transparent contracts and local community upliftment, and aggressively reviewing and exceeding acceptable efficiencies, recovery rates and waste classification norms as with the company’s South African operations.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor



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