First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has achieved a significant milestone with the commencement of nickel concentrate production at its newly established Enterprise mine in Kalumbila, North-Western Province. The inaugural off-take marks a remarkable step forward for Zambia, positioning the country as a key player in the emerging global electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem.
The Enterprise mine was commissioned by President Hakainde Hichilema a year ago, signifying Zambia’s journey towards becoming a major contributor to the production of strategic metals essential for the growing market of “green” vehicles. In early August, Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Hon. Paul Kabuswe is expected to officially inaugurate the mine’s new concentrator, further solidifying Zambia’s position in the nickel mining industry.
Once fully operational, the Enterprise mine is poised to become the largest nickel producer in Africa. Alongside lithium, cobalt, and copper, nickel plays a pivotal role in the batteries powering the new generation of electric vehicles.
The development of the mine and plant resumed last year when FQM made a substantial additional investment of US$100 million to finalize the project, capitalizing on improved market conditions.
Axel Köttgen, FQM Project Manager, expressed optimism about the mining operation’s progress, stating, “The pit is deepening, and the ore quality is increasing. The plant is now running continuously, and we anticipate a continuous stream of nickel concentrate. Over the next two years, production volumes are expected to steadily rise.”
The Enterprise mine is designed to process 4 million tonnes of ore annually, generating approximately 32,000 tonnes of nickel per year. The project is set to create around 700 permanent jobs, contributing to diversifying Zambia’s minerals and metals output. Zambia will emerge as the largest nickel producer on the African continent and the 10th largest in the world for this highly sought-after mineral.
Furthermore, the operation will have a positive impact on indirect employment, providing opportunities for sub-contractors and suppliers. Studies have shown that in Zambia, each worker supports an average of 10 dependents, thus contributing significantly to the nation’s economic growth.
President Hichilema, during the groundbreaking ceremony last year, highlighted the significance of nickel mining for Zambia’s future, stating, “This [nickel] is the future of our country… This is where this country must go; and they must explore these resources sustainably and deliver value for our people. We are fortunate as a country to host our fair share of these minerals. But if they stay in the ground; if we don’t arrange projects like these; if we don’t unlock projects like these, we will not be able to play our part in keeping our world cleaner and reduce the environmental damage whose consequences we know very well.”
With the commencement of nickel concentrate production, Zambia’s strategic role in the global transition to EVs and sustainable energy sources is further solidified, making it a key player in the green revolution.