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06 April, 2023

Mining Industry of Zambia

1. Introduction

Zambia, a landlocked country situated in southern Africa, is widely recognized for its abundant mineral resources. The mining industry Is a critical contributor to the country’s economy, constituting a significant proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) and export earnings. This report provides an overview of the mining industry in Zambia, with a focus on the minerals that contribute to the national economy, the general geology of Zambia, and the exploitation and processing operations of these minerals. The report also highlights the challenge that confront the mining industry in Zambia, the energy consumption.

2. General Geology of Zambia

Zambia has a unique geological position due to its location between three stable blocks: the Kasai, Zimbabwe-Kaapvaal, and Tanzania cratons. The different movements between these blocks, along with their support, have played a crucial role in Zambia’s geological history and the creation of the country’s energy and mineral resources.

Figure 1. Geology of Zambia

The Katanga Supergroup is a rock sequence that covers the Basement and Muva sequences in Zambia with a distinct angular unconformity. It spans a time period of about 1000 million to 500 million years ago and is found in the Copperbelt and north-western Zambia. The Mine Series Group, which is a part of the Katanga Supergroup, is significant for hosting most of the copper-cobalt mineralization in the Copperbelt. The Lower Roan Formation, the lowest unit of this sequence, is composed of conglomerate and aeolian sandstones, followed by siliciclastic sediments, argillites, dolostones, and arenites. The Upper Roan Formation is mainly a dolomite-argillite sequence, followed by carbonaceous shales, argillite, and minor carbonate rocks of the Mwashia Formation. These rocks were deposited due to a marine incursion from the northeast across a deeply dissected continental landscape (Zambia Mining, n.d.).

3. Mine Production in Numbers

Zambia’s amazingly wide spectrum of mineral resources spans a range of metals, particularly copper-cobalt and gold, gemstones, a variety of industrial minerals and potential energy resources uranium, coal and hydrocarbons. Ranging in size from world-class operating mines to small prospects, the multiplicity and variety of resources demonstrate clearly the opportunities for further exploration and exploitation.

Table 1. Zambia Mining Production between 2016-2020 (Reichl & Schatz, 2019).

Commodity Unit 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Cobalt tonnes 5,276 2,649 1,766 1,271 367
Manganese tonnes 27,500 39,900 37,800 11,970 12,220
Nickel tonnes 2,500 5,712
Beryllium tonnes 5 7 2
Copper tonnes 774,290 799,329 857,847 796,430 882,061
Gold tonnes 5 4 4 5 4
Sulfur tonnes 363,000 679,500 947,800 969,200 917,300
Steam Coal tonnes 126,050 208,608 344,717 361,648 448,821
Total tonnes 1,296,126 1,729,994 2,189,941 2,134,031 2,266,487

Zambia’s mining production is as in Table 1. Zambia is the 7 largest copper producer in the world with the 882 thousands of ton production capacity. However, Cobalt production is decreasing year by year. Also, in 2019 a decline in mining sector is observed due to the uncertain environment for mining companies and the drought’s impact on hydropower production.

4. Major Mining Companies and Their Operations

4.1. Konkola Copper Mines Plc.

Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is primarily engaged in the exploration for, mining, production and sale of copper and copper by-products. KCM is a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources Plc, a London Stock Exchange listed and one of the world’s largest diversified natural resources companies with interests in zinc, lead, silver, copper, aluminium, iron ore, power and oil and gas. Vedanta Resources has operations located in geographies spanning India, Australia, Zambia, South Africa, Liberia, Sri Lanka, Namibia and Ireland. KCM is located in the Copperbelt and Central Provinces, and include open pit mines, underground mines, tow concentrators, a leach plant, a state-of-the-art flash smelter, a modernized refinery and a sulphuric acid plant. The state-owned mining company Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) is the other shareholder in KCM, controlling a 20.6% stake in the company. KCM enjoys a strong relationship with the Zambian government and is a committed partner in improving the economic prospects of the country through our operations and other activities (Konkola Copper Mines Plc, n.d.).

Figure 2. Konkola Copper Mine in Zambia

The two Nchanga concentrators (East mill and West mill) were recently modernized. A new concentrator was commissioned at Konkola in 2008. The Nchanga smelter was commissioned in 2008, incorporating technology from Outotec, Finland. The smelter processes ore from Konkola, Nchanga and other third party concentrates and it has a capacity of 31 1,000 tpa. The smelter has met global benchmark environmental performance as it captures 99.6% of sulphur emissions. The main refinery at Nkana uses electrolysis to process copper anodes to LME A grade copper cathodes. It has been expanded to accommodate the increased anode production from the Nchanga smelter. The Nchanga Tailings Leach Plant (TLP), one of the largest of its kind in the world, processes tailings from the Nchanga concentrators and stockpiled tailings to produce copper. The TLP extracts copper directly to cathodes from concentrate solution using electrolysis. Since inception of the mine, refractory ore from the copper production process was surface stockpiled. KCM has now developed a process to extract copper from the refractory ore stockpile. The company also produces several by-products, including sulphuric acid produced Iron the smelting process, which is largely consumed in the leaching process. The new Nchanga smelter also has the capability to recover cobalt from copper concentrates. The cobalt which comes in the form of a copper-cobalt alloy is sold to markets mainly in Asia. A final by-product of the refinery process is slime which is also exported (K.onkola Copper Mines Plc, n.d.-b).

4.2. Mopani Copper Mines Plc

Mopani Copper Mines Plc is a multi-faceted mining investment with operations in Kitwe and Mufulira districts of the Copperbelt Province. The company’s operations encompass the full range of the copper production chain: from extracting the ore underground to concentrating, smelting, relining and packaging the finished red metal for export. A Zambian registered entity, Mopanı Copper Mines Plc is owned by ZCCM Investment Holdings Plc (ZCCM-IH), a diversified mining investments and operations company with a primary listing on the Lusaka Securities Exchange in Zambia, and secondary listings on the London Stock Exchange in the United Kingdom and the Euronext Access Exchange in Paris, France. ZCCM-IH assumed ownership of Mopani Copper Mines Plc in 202l after buying off the majority stake in the mine from Carlisa Investments -a joint venture between Swiss commodity trader Glencore and Canadian based First Quantum Minerals – which ran Mopani from privatisation in 2000. The future of Mines Plc lies in the expansion projects that the company has been undertaking since 2013 with a view to extending the lifespan of the mine by over 25 years, also with the further investments they are planning to increase copper cathode production from 90 tons to over 200 tons per year (Mopani Copper Mines Plc.,2022).

Figure 3. Mopani Copper Mine in Zambia

4.3. Barrick

Barrick is a Canadian publicly traded mining company with a portfolio of operating mines and projects across five continents. The Lumwana Mine property is located within the North Western Province of the Republic of Zambia, approximately 65 km from Solwezı, the provincial capital. It lies about 50 km south of the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. The Project comprises of a 260,000 tonnes per day open pit mining operation and a b8,000 tonnes per day processing facilty. 1he mine consists of two open pits, Malundwe and Chimiwungo, and is mined by conventional truck and shovel method. The current production plan shows that 537 million tonnes of ore grading 0.56% Cu will be mined between 2014 and 2038. The ore, which is predominantly sulphide, is treated through a conventional sulphide flotation plant, producing copper concentrate for smelting (Londono & Sanfurgo, 2014). The flowsheet of the plant is given in the Figure 4 (Moore, Danio & Altman, 2012).

Figure 4. Lamwana Mine Process Flowsheet (Moore, Danio & Alman, 2012)

4.4. First Quantum Minerals

The Kansanshi copper-gold mine near Solwezi, in the North Western Province of Zambia, has been company’ s tlagship operation since 2005. From its two open pits, the Kansanshi copper-gold mine near Solwezi, in the North Western Province of Zambia, produces more copper than any other mine in Africa The Kansanshi mine is owned and operated by Kansanshi Mining PLC, which is 80 per cent owned by First Quantum. Sulphide ore is treated Via crushing, milling and flotation to produce copper in concentrate. Mixed ore is treated through a similar circuit with the option to treat the flotation concentrate via the high pressure leach circuit. Oxide ore is treated via crushing, milling, flotation, leaching and the SX/EW process to produce a sulphidic and gold bearing flotation concentrate as well as electro-won cathode copper. Gold IS recovered from all ore types by Six gravity concentrators. Gemini tables treat the gravity concentrates and produce a high-grade concentrate for direct smelting to gold bullion. A portion of the copper concentrate produced from the sulphide and mixed ore circuits is treated in a High Pressure Leach facility. Copper is recovered by oxidation and leaching in autoclaves, and gold is recovered from HPL residues via an acid resistant gravity concentrator. The smelter has a nominal capacity of 1.2 million tonnes per annum of concentrate to produce more than 300,000 tonnes of blister copper annually. The smelter efficiently traps 100%% of sulphur dioxide by-product and converts it into sulphuric acid. This recycling produces more than million tonnes per annum of sulphuric acid, reducing reliance on imported acid for use in the treatment of oxide copper ores. Acid produced by the smelter is neutralised in the leaching circuit (First Quantum Minerals Ltd., n.d.).Flowsheets of concentrator and hydrometallurgy plants are given in Figure 5 and 6 (Gray, Lawlor & Briggs, 2020)

Figure 5. Kansashi Mine Concentrator Process Flowsheet (Giray, Lawlor & Briggs 2020).

Figure 6. Kansashi Mine Hyarometallurgy Plant Process Flowsheet (Gray, Lawlor & Briggs 2020

Another mine of the company is the Sentinel open-pit copper mine, 150km west of Solwezi in North Western Province of Zambia, is at the forefront of mining technology. The operation is based on sophisticated technology-including the world’s largest steel-ball mills and the world’s largest semi-mobile rope shovels. Mining capacity will eventually extend to around 65 million bulk cubic metres of ore and waste mined per annum. The plant has capacity to treat 55 million tonnes of ore to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper per annum (First Quantum Minerals Ltd., n.d.).

5. Conclusion

The mining industry plays a significant role in Zambia’s economy, accounting for a large proportion of foreign exchange earnings and GDP, as well as providing a considerable number of jobs. According to the Energy Regulation Board of Zambia’s statistics (2022), from January to May 2022, mining companies used 64.8% of the country’s energy because of the energy intensive processes like roasters, and smelters. However, the sector is vulnerable to supply shocks, particularly those related to electricity availability, which is Crucial for mining activities. Zambia’s heavy reliance on hydropower for electricity generation makes mining production susceptible to weather-related shocks. In 2015, a severe drought caused a drop in power generation, leading to a decline in copper and cobalt production. While power generation has improved in recent years, the current drought poses a risk to mining operations. (International Monetary Fund [IMF], 2019).

6. References

Energy Regulation Board. (2022). Statistical Bulletin January to June 2022. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.erb.org.zm/wp-content/uploads/statBullet2022.pdf

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (n.d.). Our Operations. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.first-quantum.com/English/our-operations/default.aspx

Gray, D., Lawlor, M. & Briggs, A. (2020). Kansashi Operations, North West Province, Zambia, NI 43-101 Technical Report. First Quantum Minerals.

International Monetary Fund [IMFJ. (2019). Zambia: 2019 Article IV Consultation-Press Release,; Staff Report, and Statement by the Executive Director for Zambia (No. 19/263). International Monetary Fund. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2019/08/02/Zambia-2019-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-Staff-Report-and-Statement-by-the-48558

Konkola Copper Mines Ple. (n.d.). Company Overview. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from http://kcm.co.zm/corporate-profile/company-overview/

Konkola Copper Mines Plc. (n.d-b). Mining Process. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from http://kcm.co.zm/our-operations/mining-process/

Londono, D., & Sanfurgo, B. (2014). Technical Report on the Lumwana Mine, North-Western Province, Republic of Zambia. Barrick. https://s25.q4cdn.com/322814910/files/doc_downloads/operations/lumwana/lumwana-03272014.pdf

Moore, C. M., Danio, JR. & Altman, K. A. (2012). Technical Report on the Lumwana Mine, North-Western Province, Republic of Zambia. RPA. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/756894/000119312512137665/d324012dex991.htm

Mopani Copper Mines PLC. (2022, June 15). About Us – Mopani Copper Mines Plc. Mopani Copper Mines https://mopani.com.zm/about_us/

Reichl, C., & Schatz, M. (2019). World Mining Data 2022 (Vol. 37). Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. https://www.world-mining-data.info/wmd/downloads/PDF/WMD2022.pdf

Zambia Mining. (n.d.). Geology. https://www.zambia-mining.com/geology.html

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