Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is sinking shafts at a new deep-level mine, which together with other projects will more than double finished copper output by 2010, the firm said on Monday.
The new underground mine together with a smelter upgrade and tailings project would lift annual output at Zambia’s largest copper producer to 500,000 tonnes in 2010 from the projected 200,000 tonnes this year, KCM communications advisor Samuel Equamo said in an interview.
KCM had started sinking shafts at the Konkola Deep Mining Project (KDMP), which is due to become Zambia’s largest single mine operation when it comes on stream in 2010, he said.
“KCM expects to produce 500,000 tonnes of finished copper per year when its key projects, the Konkola Deep Mining Project, the (Nkana) smelter project and the Chingola Refractory Ores project, are fully operational by 2010,” Equamo told Reuters in an interview.
Equamo said a technology known as heap-leach would be used to process waste from copper mining, which had accumulated for decades at the Chingola Open Pit mine.
Equamo said material at one of the KCM tailings dams was running out and the firm would start reclaiming copper from another dam to ramp up output.
KCM, majority-owned by London-based Vedanta Resources Plc , produces 150,000 tonnes of copper at the Nkana Smelter now being upgraded to double its output.
KCM operates the Chingola Open Pit, Konkola and Fitwaola copper mines, the Nkana Smelter and Nampunwe pyrite mine, which together account for nearly half of Zambia’s total copper output.
Equamo said the Konkola Deep Mining project, which is still budgeted to cost $400 million, would produce 180,000 tonnes of copper per year when it is fully operational in 2010.
Equamo said the pre-sinking of the main shaft at the new underground mine is already 90 metres deep. “Work is in progress to erect the head gear and sinking winders in order to allow for the deepening of the shaft to 1,490 metres,” he said.
Equamo said the engineers would then begin to sink supportive shafts for ventilation and dewatering and that this work would be completed in 2008. A new concentrator is also being built alongside the new underground mine.
Copper mining is Zambia economic lifeblood and the vast copper and cobalt mines are a major employer in this southern Africa country of 11.7 million people.