Reporter : ARNBETHNIC KATANGA MINING NEWS
Production of concentrate has begun at First Quantum Minerals’ new Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila, North-Western Province.
The first off-take comes a year after President Hakainde Hichilema commissioned the mine, launching Zambia’s journey to becoming a key player in the new global electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem.
Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Hon. Paul Kabuswe is expected to formally commission the mine’s new concentrator in early August.
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 conditions.
“As the mining operation develops, the pit is deepening and the ore quality is increasing. The plant is now operating continuously and we expect to generate nickel concentrate in a continuous stream. Moreover, the operation is expected to steadily increase production volumes over the next two years,” explained FQM Project Manager Axel Köttgen.
Designed to process 4 million tonnes of ore and produce around 32,000 tonnes of nickel per year, Enterprise will provide an estimated 700 permanent jobs and diversify the nation’s minerals and metals output, making Zambia the largest nickel producer on the continent and the 10th largest producer in the world of the highly sought-after mineral.
In addition, the operation generates indirect employment through sub-contractors and suppliers. Studies have shown that in Zambia one worker supports 10 dependents, generating a significant economic impact.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony last year, President Hichilema said: “This [nickel] is the future of our country…This is where this country must go; and they must explore these resources sustainably and deliver value for our people.
“We are fortunate as a country to host our fair share of these minerals. But if they stay in the ground; if we don’t arrange projects like these; if we don’t unlock projects like these, we will not be able to play our part in keeping our world cleaner and reduce the environmental damage whose consequences we know very well.”