AN associate professor in the School of Mines and Mineral Sciences at the Copperbelt University (CBU) says the mines have potential to produce 500,000 metric tonnes of copper per annum provided there is fiscal stability in the industry.
Copper production on the Copperbelt has declined, with mining houses only contributing 30 per cent of the 861,000 metric tonnes of copper output recorded last year.
Increased productivity in the mining sector has now shifted to North-Western Province with mines in the area contributing 68 percent of the national copper output.
Dr Chileshe said in an interview in Kitwe yesterday that mines on the Copperbelt have enough ore reserves, which can sustain mining operations from 30 to 60 years.
He said Konkola Copper Mines Deep Mining Project in Chililabombwe has the capacity to produce 200,000 metric tonnes of copper per annum, KCM Nchanga 30,000 tonnes, Chambishi Non-Ferrous Mining Project 100,000 tonnes while Luanshya Copper Mine has potential to produce 10,000 metric tonnes.
Dr Chileshe said other mines like Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) that have invested in new shafts are likely to increase production to 148,000 metric tonnes per annum.
“There are also other mines on the Copperbelt like Chibuluma and these smaller ones. They all have the capacity to produce more copper. So we are very much capable of producing about 488,000 to 500,000 metric tonnes of copper per annum as a province,” he said.
Dr Chileshe said the fiscal changes in the mining sector have affected the productivity of most mines on the Copperbelt.
He said what is needed is for Government and the mining sector to have a good relationship and dialogue on how they can address some of the challenges facing the sector.
Dr Chileshe said Government’s attempt to introduce sales tax early this year unsettled most mining houses, who thought cutting down on their operations, which resulted in reduced production.
He said the 5 percent increase on the importation of copper concentrates also affected most mines because most of them import material from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr Chileshe said there is need for Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu to take on board views of individual mines as they draft the budget if the industry has to increase productivity to the targeted 1 million metric tonnes per year of copper output.
He said each mine has its own unique challenges which should be considered when drafting the budget.
Dr Chileshe said the future of Zambia lies in the mining industry, which contributes about US$ 9 billion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said the mining sector contributes immensely to the country’s foreign exchange earnings and what is needed is to invest in more explorations to come up with new mines.
By Nkomo Kachemba, Zambia Daily Mail.