AFTER one year of struggling, the mining industry is looking up again.
The sinking of the Mindola and Mufulira Deep shafts which was commissioned by Government yesterday is a major event not only for Mopani Copper Mines and the entire mining industry but Zambia as a whole.
The decision by Glencore to invest in the two costly projects at this difficult hour in the extractive industry for the purpose of revitalising the two mines whose lifespan was coming to an end is a sign of the mine owners’ confidence in Zambia as an investment destination of choice.
The two shafts will ensure that 3,000 miners who could have been laid off as a result of the gradual closure of some of Mopani’s uneconomic mines will continue working for the next 25 to 30 years.
It also means that more Zambians are likely to be employed over the next few years as Mopani Copper Mine’s new, massive US$1.1 billion investment takes off to transform the company into a modern mining operation.
The two shafts, which will be sunk to the dizzying depth of 2,000 metres, will not only be the deepest ever attempted in the 100 years of mining in Zambia, but will score the technological feat of being the deepest copper mine on the African continent, and perhaps one of the few in the world.
According to MCM chief executive officer Johan Jansen, the two shafts are expected to access rich, high grade ore bodies in the bowels of the Copperbelt, extending the lifespan of the two mines by a quarter of a century of active production and economic benefit to the country.
This comes on the heels of the US$323 million MCM Synclinorium shaft commissioned at Nkana last month by President Edgar Lungu which has ensured that the future of Mopani, and more importantly its employees, is vitally secured.
The Mufulira and Mindola projects will dramatically increase the mines’ ore production from the current 1.1 million to 2 million tonnes annually two years from now at Mindola and by 0.4 million tonnes to 2.4 million tonnes per annum at Mufulira mine, previously the world’s wettest mine.
The increase in ore production means that although the price on the world metal markets may not be as high as expected, the increased copper exports will earn the country far more than it is getting now.
Again this week it was announced that another copper giant, First Quantum Minerals of Solwezi, has achieved the status of Zambia’s largest taxpayer through its US$4 billion Kansanshi mine, another great contributor to the country’s economy through direct and indirect employment.
Visiting Canadian high commissioner Amy Galigan said Zambia’s mining success story was anchored on the Government’s laudable policies which have ensured a ‘‘stable, predictable and balanced’’ business and regulatory environment that promoted the kind of investment FQM, and indeed MCM, were making in Zambia.
Kansanshi mine investment alone has created 8,500 jobs in the hitherto ‘‘cinderella’’ province which has transformed the economy of the region and Zambia. FQM is currently commissioning the US$2.1 billion Sentinel mine at Kalumbila, some 120 km west of Kansanshi.
These staggering investments point to the fact that Zambia has been in safe hands over the past five years of peace, good governance and exemplary economic management.
This is the core issue in this year’s election.