Vancouver-based First Quantum Resources is teaming up with Zambia's Mimosa Resources to develop the Fishtie deposit which has a preliminary resource of some 500,000 tonnes of copper.
"The Fishtie project is significant as it is the first and, until very recently, the only new copper discovery which has proceeded to a mining licence in Zambia," a company representative told Reuters.
This is Africa spoke to First Quantum's president Clive Newall who said Zambia's mining policies are "somewhat volatile" and outlined ambitious expansion plans in the country over and above the Fishtie project:
"We are investing approximately $1.7bn in our new Trident project, which includes the Sentinel copper mine and the Enterprise Nickel mine, between now and the end of 2014," he tells This is Africa. First Quantum acquired the Trident project, located in north western Zambia, in 2010.
"An additional $2bn will be put into the expansion of the group's existing Kansanshi mine, increasing its copper output from 240,000 tonnes per year to 400,000 tonnes per year by 2014. The expansion will include developing of one of the world's biggest copper smelters, designed to treat 1.2m tonnes of concentrate a year."
The Lusaka Times quotes Adam Little, who heads up the firm's tax department, as saying that the company has paid over $2 billion in taxes since 2005 and that given that the country has some of the highest mining tax and royalty structures in the world, many would "think twice" before investing:
“Government should encourage future development, I don’t think that means offering individual incentives to the mines “No sweetheart deals” but coming up with consistent and fair tax environment,” he said.
At the start of the year First Quantum was able to extract itself from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a $1.25 billion payment after a long legal battle.
Two years earlier the DRC government nationalized its then flagship Frontier mine but First Quantum managed to sell the asset to a Kazakhstan's ENRC.