HomeBase MetalsZambian Copper Belt struggles back to life

Zambian Copper Belt struggles back to life

Luanshya copper mine
in Zambia
Lusaka, Zambia — MININGREVIEW.COM — 19 January 2010 – A rumbling procession of trucks laden with high explosives and earthmovers is bringing Zambia’s Copper Belt back to life, yet many mining towns are still suffering the fallout of last year’s slump.

In the depths of the crisis last January, Luanshya’s century-old copper mine was mothballed, forcing 1, 700 miners out of work and killing off the economic life of the town.

There were similar scenes across much of the Copper Belt, a string of towns on Zambia’s northern border with the DRC, with up to 12 000 miners “’ more than 25 % of the mining workforce in Africa’s biggest copper producer “’ losing their jobs.

Reuters reports from here that, faced with meltdown in a sector that accounts for 10% of the economy and more than 60% of its foreign currency earnings, the Zambian government quickly scouted out foreign buyers for the closed mines.

Luanshya’s new owners, China Non-Ferrous Metals Corporation, took over in the middle of 2009 and officially started production in December with around 2 500 staff on its books “’ more than at the height of the recent boom.

As a result of that and other investment, the government projected copper output of 664 000 tonnes for 2009, a slight increase on 2008, and it believes new mines due to open this year could lift production to 1 million tonnes for 2010.

On the back of such projections and a rebound in copper prices, central bank governor Caleb Fundanga has predicted growth of 7 and 8% for the next two years, putting Zambia among the world’s fastest-growing economies.