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July 14, 2024
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Power Grid Stability Key to Zambia’s 3 Million Ton Copper Dream: FQM

Securing a stable and efficient national power grid is paramount to achieving Zambia’s ambitious target of 3 million tonnes annual copper production, according to First Quantum Minerals (FQM), the country’s largest copper producer.

“Ahead of new mine production, ensuring sufficient and reliable power, efficiently transmitted through the national grid, cannot be overstated,” emphasized Jed Goldstein, Lead of Infrastructure Development at FQM. This statement comes after the company hosted engineers from ZESCO, the national power utility, at its Trident mine in Kalumbila for discussions on enhancing grid stability across North-Western Province.

The visit follows the landmark 100% renewable power supply agreement signed between FQM and ZESCO in November 2023, marking a new era of collaboration towards increasing Zambia’s power supply and grid stability. This collaboration, Goldstein stressed, is “crucial to supporting President Hichilema’s vision of reaching 3 million tonnes of copper production.”

FQM, a staunch supporter of the President’s vision, is actively contributing to its realization. However, power outages remain a significant hurdle, costing an estimated 35 tonnes of copper production per outage at current prices – translating to a potential annual loss of US$33.3 million in foreign exchange earnings and tax revenue.

Beyond immediate production concerns, grid stability also unlocks the potential for increased solar and wind power generation. Currently, the intermittent nature of these renewable sources poses challenges to the existing transmission infrastructure.

ZESCO, however, assures its commitment to meeting projected growth in the mining sector. “We have factored in planned increases in mining output and are positioning ourselves to provide sufficient power,” affirmed Lioko Sitali, Senior Manager, Systems Operations at ZESCO.

As the largest electricity consumer in Zambia, accounting for over US$250 million in annual spending, FQM has a vested interest in a robust grid. Their November 2023 PSA with ZESCO secures a sustainable renewable energy supply for their mines, while also exploring an off-take agreement with TotalEnergies for their 430 MW solar/wind project. This integration will significantly boost Zambia’s renewable energy capacity and contribute to its sustainability goals.

“A reliable grid is the bedrock of copper production, especially with new miners coming online,” Goldstein stated. Lumwana’s recent expansion and Kansanshi’s US$1.25 billion S3 expansion, extending its life of mine by 20 years, highlight investor confidence in Zambia’s mining potential, largely fueled by ZESCO’s ability to deliver reliable power.

FQM’s commitment extends beyond power. They actively collaborate with various government agencies like the Road Development Agency and the Zambia Development Agency on initiatives that support the entire mineral value chain, solidifying Zambia’s position as a major mining power.

In conclusion, the article effectively conveys the importance of a stable grid for Zambia’s copper ambitions in a Business Times style. It incorporates key facts, quotes from relevant stakeholders, and emphasizes the collaborative efforts underway to address the challenge. Additionally, the focus on the economic impact and potential future developments makes the article informative and engaging for the business audience.

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