The area stretches 450km, boasts a width of up to 260km, and contains over one tenth of the world’s copper deposits. As a result of this prospect, Zambia was ranked eighth-largest copper producer in the world in 2022, accounting for 4% of global production.
The Kansanshi copper mine, situated near Solwezi in the North-Western Province of Zambia, is the largest copper mine by production in Africa. Owned and operated through a joint venture between mining company, First Quantum Minerals, and investment holding company, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines-Investment Holdings, the Kansanshi mine holds estimated reserves of 845 million tons of ore grading at 0.66% copper. In May 2022, First Quantum Minerals approved expansion of the project, which will comprise a 25-million-ton-per-year processing plant, pushing the mine’s annual throughput to 53-million tons.
With an estimated reserve base of 811.3 million tons of proven and probable ore grading 0.5% copper, the Sentinel copper mine in the Kalumbila District holds one of the largest copper reserves in the world. The mine is owned and operated by Kalumbila Minerals, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, and was developed with an estimated investment cost of $2.3 billion. Consisting of two major copper deposits – the Malundwe and Chimiwungo deposits – the Lumwana copper mine, which is owned and operated by mining company, Barrick Gold, is a conventional open pit mine near Solwezi holding probable reserves of 390 million tons of copper grading 0.59%.
One of Africa’s largest integrated copper producers, Konkola Copper Mines – a subsidiary of diversified natural resources company, Vedanta Resources – owns and operates three open pit and underground mines, the Nchanga copper mine, the Nampundwe copper mine, and the Konkola copper mine. The Konkola mine is one of Zambia’s flagship copper projects and holds inferred reserves of 265.6 million tons of copper grading 3.36%. The mine is situated roughly 26km north of the city Chingola and serves as the northernmost mine in Zambia’s Copperbelt.
Meanwhile, completing the list of Zambia’s “Big Four” copper mining operators, which includes First Quantum Minerals, Konkola Copper Mines, and Barrick Gold, Mopani Copper Mines operates the Mufulira and Nkana mine sites, which boast a combined proven reserve base of 57.19 million tons of copper grading 0.7%. Smaller copper mining operators in Zambia’s Copperbelt include the Lubambe copper mine, the Chibuluma copper mines, the Ichimbe copper mine, and the Kakoso Talings Development Project, while other mining companies and developers include NFC Africa Mining, CNMC Luanshya, Chambishi Copper Smelting Company, and Sino Metals, all contributing significantly towards the country’s copper output.
Zambia’s mining sector is governed and regulated by the country’s Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development, which oversees mining rights and the acquisition of mining rights as well as safety, health, and environmental requirements. The sector is expected to see a significant boost in investment in the coming years amidst a cooperative agreement signed between Zambia and the DRC in April 2022 for the electric vehicle battery supply chain, which will require an abundance of battery metals – such as copper – to assist the burgeoning global energy transition.