OPERATION POTENTIAL The Copperbelt Mining Trade Expo and Conference will focus on solutions for optimal mining and processing options
Zambia still offers significant potential for greenfield operations, owing to the abundance of high-grade copper reserves and other minerals in the country, emphasises Chamber of Mines (CoM) of Zambia CEO Maureen Dlamini, ahead of the Copperbelt Mining Trade Expo and Conference (CBM-TEC), which will take place from April 28 to 29 at conference venue Mist Gardens, in Kitwe, Zambia.
Zambia’s CoM will participate at the two-day conference and expo, with president Emmanuel Mutati delivering a keynote address. About 1 500 mining experts are expected to attend the event.
As Zambia is currently ranked the seventh-largest copper producer in the world, Dlamini stresses that Zambia is a key player in the global mining industry.
Citing the importance of mining in the country, she notes that the sector contributes about 80% to Zambia’s foreign exchange earnings.
“When Zambia acquired political independence in 1964 the amount of copper produced by private mining companies was high, reaching a peak of 750 000 t in 1973.
“To demonstrate the current importance of mining, there have been new investments in the sector, which have resulted in copper production rising to almost 700 000 t in 2011, from the lows of 257 000 t in 2000,” she emphasises.
Dlamini further mentions that the current Zambian government is willing to engage industry and the CoM to promote the mining sector and further enhance its contribution to the growth of the country’s economy. She adds that CBM-TEC is giving the CoM and the mining industry a platform to interact with government on various policy-related issues.
She highlights high energy and transport costs, a highly regulated environment, skills shortages and the long-term investment required for mining as some of the key challenges currently facing Zambia’s mining industry.
“Zambia, however, is politically stable; it has been for the last 49 years and will continue to be so, thereby providing a stable environment for local and foreign investors to operate in the sector.”
Dlamini explains that the industry is pooling its resources with the chamber, government and training institutions to initiate skills development programmes to increase and improve the skills base of the sector.
“In so doing, we are providing a pool of human resources that the new investors can employ when starting their operations.”
Putting the Copperbelt on the Map
Dlamini says Zambia’s CoM partnered with CBM-TEC as the theme of this year’s event aims to bring Zambia’s Copperbelt region to prominence.
The event will also highlight local strategies for creating sustainable, world-class mining operations, which dovetail with the chamber’s role of promoting value-add and local entrepreneurs in the mining industry.
She adds that the CoM’s message at the conference will be that “all countries in the world now appreciate that they need new technology, technical expertise and funds from other countries. . . to develop their own economies”.
“CBM-TEC will help create stakeholder linkages with various mining industry role-players in-country and abroad to establish productive partnerships,” says Dlamini.
She also highlights that the expo will “hopefully help the industry in Zambia create alliances and business partnerships that will benefit and develop the mining sector, for not only Zambia but also the rest of the continent”.
Meanwhile, Kitwe District Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Raj Karamchand highlights the importance of the Copperbelt as a mining-based economy, with most activities centred around mining or the supply of goods and services to the mining companies.
He adds that the increasing demand for metals, partially owing to the increased demand for copper in Asia, is driving mining companies to produce more metal.
“In response to this demand, the mines in Kitwe have undertaken underground exploration to increase their mineral reserves. Consequently, the high copper and cobalt prices have triggered an increase in mining activities in Zambia,” he says.
Integrated media company Spintelligent – which oversees the specialist iPAD series of mining, energy and infrastructure conferences – and event organiser Specialised Exhibitions, which also facilitates the biennial Electra Mining Africa, will run this year’s CBM-TEC.
Spintelligent event director Nicole Smith describes Zambia as “Africa’s mining hot spot” and says that, in 2011, the Zambian mining and quarrying sector grew by 15.7% and registered $1.04-billion in foreign direct investment.
“Such a dynamic sector urgently needs skills and expertise. Therefore, CBM-TEC’s practical programme, with technical workshops and presentations free of charge, is aimed at engineers, geologists and plant managers,” she says.
The conference is offering other free-to-attend sessions on the exhibition floor, which will focus on the next exploration hot spots in Zambia and on solutions to ensure that mining and processing operations run optimally, Smith adds.
“CBM-TEC’s offering is unique, as it takes the marketplace to specific operations while addressing technical and practical issues in the Zambian mining sector,” she comments.
Smith tells Mining Weekly that the event organisers acknowledge that mining expos and conferences are usually hosted in capital cities, far from mining-operation areas, which means that most mining events lack integration between management and operations.
“We, however, wanted to represent the full mining value chain,” she says, explaining that hosting the event in a mining region in Zambia, and orientating the conference towards an operational level, provides participants with the opportunity to connect with the entire value chain, represented under one roof.
In addition to putting Zambia’s Copperbelt on the map, CBM-TEC will focus on local strategies for creating sustainable world-class mining operations, as well as creating a sustainable mining industry, a roadmap for developing the local supply chain, best practices for managing the environment and realising optimal mining output.