KALUMBILA, ZAMBIA – The commissioning of the nickel concentrator at First Quantum Minerals’ Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila, North-Western Province last week, has marked a new dawn for Zambia’s mining industry, as it diversifies its mining portfolio, according to Mines and Minerals Development Minister Hon. Paul Kabuswe.
The nickel processing plant, completed in 2016 and approved for environmental operation, has been on care and maintenance since then, awaiting 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, the timing is right to fire up the nickel operation.
“First Quantum Minerals’ 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 Mine Mr Kabuswe.
Speaking during the launch of the concentrator, the minister said that investing in nickel was not only a way to diversify Zambia’s mineral portfolio, but it was also an investment in the future.
He said 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 can 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.
“The New Dawn Government is excited that the Enterprise nickel mine has begun processing this important mineral. We expect that the national coffers will benefit significantly from this operation, and that these funds will be used to support social services,” he continued.
He added that Government believed that the sustainability of communities is a direct result of well-managed investments, and 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 tonnes of nickel per year, making Zambia the largest nickel producer on the continent and the 10th largest producer in the world. The mine will also create an estimated 700 permanent jobs and generate significant economic benefits for the country.
Speaking during a briefing before the same event FQM Trident General Manager Junior Keyser said the Enterprise nickel mine was a major for Zambia, and was 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.
“Nickel is a metal with a bright future. Experts have long predicted that demand for the base metal will increase significantly as the world transitions to cleaner energy and technology. This is because nickel is a key component in many of the technologies that are driving the energy transition, such as electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy infrastructure,” he continued.
Mr Keyser further said that by working together, the government and the private sector can ensure that Zambia’s mining sector continues 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 said.
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.
Development of the mine and plant resumed last year after FQM earmarked an additional US$100 million investment to finalise the project in the light of improved market condition.