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Zambian nickel concentrator launched

8th September 2023

     

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The inauguration of a nickel concentrator at copper miner First Quantum Minerals’ (FQM’s) Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila, Zambia, signals a promising era for Zambia’s mining sector, following the miner’s allocation of an extra $100-million investment to expedite project completion, capitalising on improved market conditions.

This move, diversifying the nation’s mining portfolio, has been acclaimed by Zambia Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe.

The nickel processing plant, which was completed in 2016 and approved for environmental operation, had been on care and maintenance since then, until 2022, when development of the mine and plant resumed in line with more favourable market conditions.

However, with the global push for a green energy transition, rising demand for nickel – a key metal in this shift – and a new, favourable mining regime, Kabuswe said the timing was right to bring the nickel operation back to life.

Speaking during a briefing before the launch event, FQM Trident (a subsidiary of FQM which owns Enterprise) GM Junior Keyser noted the Enterprise nickel mine was “major for Zambia, and testament to the country’s commitment to sustainable development”.

“Zambia is poised to become a major player in the global electric vehicle industry, thanks to its abundant reserves of nickel. This investment will help to ensure that Zambia is at the forefront of this new and growing market,” he said.

“FQM’s decision to fire up the concentrator is a welcome sign that the company is committed to its partnership with Zambia and the mining sector. This is a positive development for the country’s investment climate and shows that Zambia is open for business,” said Kabuswe.

Speaking during the launch of the concentrator last month, he said that investing in nickel was not only a way to diversify Zambia’s mineral portfolio, but was also an investment in the future.

Kabuswe added that Zambia’s economy had long been dependent on copper exports, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in the global copper market, and that these fluctuations have a significant impact on the country’s economic growth.

“As Africa’s largest producer of nickel, Zambia will become a strategic supplier of an essential material for electric batteries and other clean energy solutions. This will help to position Zambia as a leader in the global transition to a clean energy economy,” he said.

Kabuswe added that Zambia’s New Dawn Government was looking forward to the Enterprise nickel mine starting to process ore, with Zambia’s national treasury expected to receive a significant boost through taxes, the funds of which will be used to support social services.

He noted that the Zambian government believed that the sustainability of communities was a direct result of well-managed investments, adding that this “leads to social and economic development, not only in Kalumbila, but also in Zambia as a whole”.

The mine is expected to produce 32 000 t of nickel a year, making Zambia the largest nickel producer in Africa and the tenth largest producer in the world.

The mine will also create an estimated 700 permanent jobs and generate significant economic benefits for Zambia.

Keyser further said that by working together, the government and the private sector could ensure that Zambia’s mining sector continued to be a major driver of employment and economic growth.

“Zambia’s mining industry has a long and successful history. It has come a long way and is still making great progress. The recent move to diversify the country’s mineral basket will further cement Zambia’s role as a key producer of the metals of the future. This will also stimulate future investment in the mining sector, which will benefit the entire country,” he noted.

Once in full production, the Enterprise mine will be the largest producer of the strategic metal in Africa. Nickel – like lithium, cobalt and copper – is an essential component in the batteries required for the new era of “green” vehicles.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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