Barrick to invest $2 billion in Zambia copper mine expansion

Lumwana is located in Zambia’s Northwestern Province. (Image courtesy of Barrick Gold.)

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX)(NYSE: GOLD) plans to invest almost $2 billion in an expansion of its Lumwana copper mine in Zambia, with the purpose of increasing production.

The project will increase Lumwana’s annual production to an estimated 240,000 tonnes of copper from a 50 million tonnes per annum process plant over a 36-year life of mine, Barrick said on Wednesday.

The move is part of the company’s wider plan to extend the life of the mine to 2060 and help Zambia revive its copper industry, chief executive Mark Bristow said. 

“Barrick believes that its host countries are its key stakeholders and that partnering with them creates sustainable value for both of us,” Bristow said

Zambia already is Africa’s second-largest copper producer after its northern neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Barrick said it aims to complete the full feasibility study by the end of 2024, bringing the expanded production forward to 2028.

Over the past year, the Canadian gold giant has expressed its intention to add more copper assets to its African portfolio, expanding its presence on the continent’s copper belt. Activity is picking up in the region with KoBold Metals recently investing in the Mingomba project and junior Midnight Sun Mining (TSX-V: MMA) looking for a partner to advance its Solwezi project.

The world’s No. 2 gold miner wants to explore for new copper deposits in light of a looming deficit and high prices for the industrial metal, which is a key component in the making of electric vehicles and is vital to the renewables sector.

The company’s goal is to double its copper production by 2031 to 1 billion pounds.

Since Barrick took over operations at Lumwana in 2019, the once-unprofitable operation has contributed almost $3 billion to the Zambian economy in the form of taxes, royalties, salaries and the procurement of goods and services. 

The Toronto-based miner said that 99.3% of Lumwana’s current workforce is made up of Zambian nationals.