Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Zambia's LCM says new copper mine to start in 2009

By Shapi Shacinda - LUSAKA, Aug 18 (Reuters)

A new copper mine at Zambia's Luanshya Copper Mines (LCM) was expected to start producing 60,000 tonnes of copper cathode on schedule in 2009, Derek Webbstock, chief executive officer of LCM said on Monday.

Owners of the new Mulyashi copper mine, which has a 20-year lifespan, plan to spend some $350 million to build infrastructure and other related developments at the mine to produce A-grade copper cathode, and this project was in advanced stages, Webbstock added.

Another of the company's multi-million dollar projects, a new copper solvent extraction electro-winning or copper processing facility would be constructed at the firm's Chambishi Metal's Plc, and would cost $60 million, Webbstock said.

Webbstock said the copper facility at Chambishi would be completed by July 2009.

Webbstock said other developments and upgrades were being carried out at the Baluba Mine, LCM's largest copper producer.

"Mulyashi is due to come on stream at the end of 2009 and everything is on course," Webbstock told Reuters by telephone from Johannesburg.

"So far, we have spent $50 million on capital refurbishment and mine upgrades and $12 million will be spent this year mainly to upgrade (the Baluba mine), to buy new capital equipment and on critical spares," Webbstock said.

Webbstock said Chambishi was also on course to produce 4,000 tonnes of cobalt in 2008 while the Baluba mine would achieve its 24,000 copper output target.

"We are on course with all our production targets at Luanshya (Baluba mine) and Chambishi," he said in response to a question on whether output targets for this year would be met.

LCM is a joint venture of the International Mineral Resources (IRM) and Bein Stein Group Resources (BSGR).

Webbestock, who also heads the Chambishi Metals, Zambia's largest cobalt producer, said further modernization and rehabilitation of the Baluba mine would start once equipment is delivered to the mine.

Repair works to electrical equipment would continue to bring the mines to higher efficiency, after some electrical gadgets were destroyed early this year following three consecutive national power blackouts in Zambia, which also forced the vast copper and cobalt mines to trim down output.

LCM plans to peak copper output at 86,000 tonnes from Baluba, Mulyashi and a small amount to be produced at the cobalt producer Chambishi Metals when all projects currently under the development star producing at full tilt.

The Mulyashi project was revived when LCM started to operate the Baluba mine in 2003, following its earlier shut down in 2000 through liquidation over debts owed to power distributor Copperbelt Energy Company (CEC) owed by the former owners.

The Roan Antelope Mining Corporation of Zambia (Ramcoz), which was owned by Binani Group of India operated the Baluba and Luanshya copper mines prior to its shutdown.