Zambia expects to find new Mopani investor by year-end

Mopani mine. Image from Glencore.

Zambia’s mining investment arm ZCCM-IH expects to find a new investor for Mopani copper mines by the end of the year, the company and its top shareholder, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), told Reuters.

ZCCM-IH agreed on Tuesday to buy Glencore’s majority stake in Mopani, taking on $1.5 billion in debt to do so.

“We expect a strategic equity partner will be identified before the end of 2021,” the IDC told Reuters.

ZCCM-IH Chief Executive Mabvuto Chipata said he agreed with that target.

Glencore shelved its plans to place the operations under care and maintenance last year after Zambia threatened to revoke its mining license

Mopani was once central to Glencore’s plans to turn around its African copper business that has been dogged by problems in recent years. The company spent billions of dollars to sink new shafts, but the asset has struggled to turn a profit. Still, once fully operational, the mines should produce about 140,000 tonnes of copper a year, compared with just 51,000 tonnes in 2019.

Glencore shelved its plans to place the operations under care and maintenance last year after Zambia threatened to revoke its mining license in April. The government’s strategy is driven by a need to safeguard jobs at the site.

Mines Minister Richard Musukwa said Tuesday that the plans to shutter the mine would have led to 15,000 workers being laid off. President Edgar Lungu will be hoping that by stepping in to take ownership, he’ll win support from labor unions and workers ahead of elections later this year.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

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