First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has reiterated is commitment to providing financial and practical support to restart the stalled government roadworks on the main Chingola-Solwezi highway.
The pledge came yesterday as Minister of Finance Hon. Felix Mutati and Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe inspected the road, work on which has been dogged by delays.
In an example of public-private partnership, First Quantum, which is Zambia’s largest taxpayer, has now stepped in to kick-start much-needed rehabilitation work on the blighted 180km road, which is a vital industrial link for the nation, carrying two thirds of the nation’s copper production and which is thus an economic lifeline for the country.
The ministers saw for themselves how First Quantum Minerals road engineering experts were undertaking stabilisation work before the rains set in, at a cost of US$2 million. The company is expecting to spend a further US$50 million next year for longer-term repairs.
The roadworks are in line with the government’s policy of upgrading roads in recognition of their impact on economic growth.
The mine has pointed out that its expenditure is in addition to the US$3 billion paid to the state in taxes in the last ten years, and is particularly significant in the context of the current depressed world copper prices and a mineral royalty tax that is higher than global industry norms.
“This road is the most strategically important economic artery in Zambia. Around 60-70 percent of the country’s mineral wealth travels along this road, which has been allowed to degenerate into a parlous state,” said FQM head of government affairs John Gladston. “Yet again this year First Quantum have undertaken emergency action to stabilise the road before the rains wash it away into the mud, thereby protecting the economic wealth of the nation.”
FQM has invested some US$3.6 billion in developing the Kansanshi mine and smelter since 2005, transforming the economy of North-Western Province and creating employment for more than 8,500 people. FQM is also currently commissioning the US$2.1bn Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila, 120km west of Kansanshi.
Kansanshi produced 227,000 tonnes of copper and more than 136,000 ounces of gold in 2015. It paid K1.74 billion of taxes to the government in 2015, excluding PAYE.