Pictures by LUKA KAMOCHA-ZANIS
By MWAPE MWESA –
Zambia is set to become the biggest nickel producer in Africa following the US$250 million investment at the Enterprise Nickel project by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in North Western Province.
The Enterprise Nickel project will also make the country one of the top 10 producers of the world’s most sought after metal at the moment.
The project, situated in Kalumbila District – about 150 kilometres west of Solwezi – is part of the US$ 1.35 billion expansion investment announced by FQM two months ago.
The nickel project, which is an addition to the FQM Trident-run Sentinel Mine, is expected to produce about 30,000 tonnes of nickel per year.
It will provide 700 direct jobs and several others indirectly for the local people.
Beyond providing jobs and wealth for the local people, the Enterprise Nickel project will be a source of raw materials for the electric motor vehicle batteries whose demand on the world market is growing.
The world is increasing its appetite for nickel as it transitions to cleaner sources of energy and the use of electric vehicles as compared to fossil fuels.
The commissioning of the nickel project comes at a time when Zambia is expected to start producing electric motor vehicle batteries which will help the country to play a part towards transitioning to clean energy.
This will reduce global carbon emissions and save the environment.
President Hakainde Hichilema, who was recently on a two-day working visit to the North Western Province, now referred to as the ‘New Copperbelt’ because of the giant mines operating in the region, was on hand to officiate at the groundbreaking ceremony of the project.
The Head of State was happy with FQM’s decision to invest large sums of money into the expansion of operations at Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi and the Enterprise nickel mine which has been on the cards for quite some time.
Mr Hichilema said the project is not only important because of the many valuable aspects it will contribute, but that it will also deliver household income through job and business opportunities that will be created for the local people.
“Truthfully, this is a project that will deliver household incomes, nshima and food. That is important for us to consider when we are launching a project like this,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said projects such as the Enterprise nickel will help Zambia play a critical role towards transitioning to clean energy that has less impact on the environment through contributing raw materials for batteries needed to drive electric vehicles.
“We are fortunate as a country to have a fair share of minerals needed for transitioning from brown energy to green energy, such as nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese and lithium, but if they stay in the ground, we do not arrange projects like this; we do not unlock projects like this; then we will not be able to play our part in keeping our world cleaner,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said there is need to create a long lasting relationship between the community and the investors as both are beneficiaries of the project.
He said a community development trust must be formed where there will be income for the community so that benefits can be seen to flow from the asset to the community and create lasting value for future generations.
“I must emphasize the need for joint stake holding here, we have to create a long lasting relationship between the community and the investment. We have to entrench and make it clear that we are all beneficiaries in this hard but beneficial project,” Mr Hichilema said.
FQM Chief Executive Officer Tristan Pascal said there is a direct link between mining critical energy metals and a better future for Zambia as it is well positioned to become a strategic producer of the nickel metal for the global market.
Mr Pascal said FQM plans to help deliver about 430 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar energy generation in the next few years because the firm believes that electricity for all its mining operations can be provided by renewable sources.
“First Quantum believes that 100 per cent of electricity for Enterprise and also that for Kansanshi and Sentinel can be provided by renewable sources. This is why through our third party partners, including ZESCO, we plan to help deliver 430MW of wind and solar generation projects in Zambia over the next few years,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe thanked FQM for taking advantage of the favourable investment environment created by the New Dawn Government to invest into the nickel project.
Mr Kabuswe said the nickel project is evidence of the Government’s resolve to not only revive the mining sector but the economic fortunes of the country as well.
He said the Government will ensure that investment in the mining sector plays an important role in uplifting the lives of the people.
North Western Province Minister Robert Lihefu said the creation of the nickel mine project is in line with the United Party for National Development (UPND) manifesto of creating jobs for the local people, which will in turn eradicate poverty and reduce inequality.
Mr Lihefu said the nickel project will create other opportunities in addition to jobs within and outside the province.
However, it must be noted that Enterprise Nickel Mine represents much more than a major foray into a new, untapped mineral.
It is a bold step towards mineral diversification in an environment where copper is and has always been king.
The opening of Enterprise signals the beginning of the end of Zambia’s economic dependence upon the copper mining industry, a goal on which the New Dawn Government has placed great emphasis.
With the sufficient capital and foresight that has characterised the development of Kalumbila, more private investment will flow into independent businesses that will ultimately sustain the town beyond the life of the mines for which it was developed.
Further, the Multi Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) which the Government has envisaged within Kalumbila will be a critical step towards the fulfilment of the ambitious concept that first inspired Kalumbila Town.
It will allow for the development of local supply chains near both Enterprise and the growing Sentinel copper mine.-ZANIS