By DERRICK SILIMINA
The government has officially commissioned First Quantum Minerals’ new Enterprise nickel mine concentrator in the Kalumbila district of North-Western Province.
Designed to process four 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.
The development would make Zambia the largest nickel producer on the continent and the 10th largest in the world.
Speaking when he commissioned the mine’s new concentrator in Kalumbila district on Friday, Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe said the decision of FQM to fire up the concentrator demonstrated the company’s commitment to work with Government in advancing the mining sector in the country.
“The commissioning of production of nickel metal in concentrates has been achieved on schedule and I want to congratulate you for keeping the promise that within the year, we are going to see what we have seen. This is as it should be and through you, we want to urge other investors in the mining sector to keep to the time. We politicians run with time and when investments like these are happening within time, then we know that we are scoring goals and achieving that which we promised our people,” Kabuswe stated.
He reiterated that investing in nickel was not only the demonstration of the country’s diversification agenda but enabled Zambia to participate actively in the global supply chain for the energy transition minerals.
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.
Once in full production, the Enterprise mine will be the largest African producer of this valuable metal. Nickel, like lithium, cobalt, and copper, is an essential component in the batteries required for the new era of ‘green’ vehicles.
Commerce Minister Chipoka Mulenga said as FQM was investing heavily in the nickel and copper processing plant and mining itself, “We need to seriously consider contracting Zambian people through many business affiliations that are happening beyond the mining that you are doing here.”
Visiting UK Trade Commissioner for Africa John Humphrey described the development as a milestone in Africa’s scale of economy. Humphrey said the investment of $1.35 billion in the project’s extension was generally significant, “I think it’s also significant looking at the minerals we need for the global transition to make Electric Vehicles (EVs) and for me, it’s a great example of the UK/Canadian multinational business committing a great deal to the local communities in Zambia.”
With an estimated 700 permanent jobs to be created with around 32,000 tonnes in production of nickel per year, the Enterprise mine was geared to diversify Zambia’s minerals and metals output.
He stated that the relative value to be generated by the nickel mine was important for Zambia, the UK, and the global community at large. In that context, Africa was ready to transition to renewable energy. “There is no doubt about it because the lowest energy that you can get at the moment is probably wind energy and when it comes to Zambia, it’s solar energy which is also very cheap as well as hydroelectric energy,” Humphrey added.
In a prior briefing, FQM Trident General Manager Junior Keyser said Zambia was 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. 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.”
Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe was accompanied by his counterparts from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Chipoka Mulenga, Energy Minister Peter Kapala, Lands Minister Elijah Muchima and other senior Government officials.
Humphrey added that the project will further help leverage foreign direct investment including from the UK into Zambia in support for responsible mining of minerals which are key to the clean energy transition which the whole world depends on.
“My goal as His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa is to promote every possible opportunity for UK companies to grow and invest here in Zambia and this is how we will support livelihoods and a stronger, greener and more resilient economy and one that creates jobs and opportunities for everyone,” Humphrey said.
Meanwhile, FQM Country Manager Godwin Beene affirmed that after the mining giant promised to deliver the project a year earlier, it has now come to pass.
“This is how FQM works, if we say something is going to happen, it will surely happen as last year when we said that the first concentrate will come out of our mills, on the trucks and will be exported, it’s now 12 months later and it has happened,” Dr Beene said.