The commissioning of the nickel concentrator at First Quantum Minerals’ Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila, North-Western Province, has ushered in a new era for Zambia’s mining industry, signaling a significant diversification of its mineral portfolio, as stated by Mines and Minerals Development Minister Hon. Paul Kabuswe.
The nickel processing plant, completed in 2016 and awaiting favorable market conditions, has been brought back to life amid the global push for a green energy transition, with a surging demand for nickel as a crucial component in clean energy solutions.
Hon. Paul Kabuswe praised First Quantum Minerals’ decision to reactivate the concentrator, affirming the company’s commitment to its partnership with Zambia and the mining sector. He emphasized that this move represents a positive development for the country’s investment climate, proving that Zambia remains open for business.
During the launch event, Minister Kabuswe highlighted the significance of investing in nickel not only to diversify Zambia’s mineral portfolio but also as an investment in the country’s future. For far too long, Zambia’s economy has heavily relied on copper exports, leaving it vulnerable to fluctuations in the global copper market, which, in turn, affect the country’s economic growth.
“As Africa’s largest producer of nickel, Zambia will become a strategic supplier of an essential material for electric batteries and other clean energy solutions. This will help position Zambia as a leader in the global transition to a clean energy economy,” stated Minister Kabuswe.
The Enterprise nickel mine is projected to produce 32,000 tonnes of nickel annually, making Zambia the largest nickel producer on the continent and the 10th largest worldwide. The operation will create approximately 700 permanent jobs and generate substantial economic benefits for the country.
FQM Trident General Manager, Junior Keyser, who spoke during a pre-event briefing, emphasized the significance of the Enterprise nickel mine in positioning Zambia as a major player in the global electric vehicle industry, thanks to its abundant nickel reserves. Nickel’s demand is set to soar as the world increasingly adopts cleaner energy and technology, with electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy infrastructure relying on the metal.
Mr. Keyser further emphasized the collaboration between the government and the private sector in ensuring Zambia’s mining sector continues to drive employment and economic growth. He highlighted that Zambia’s mining industry has made significant progress and diversifying the country’s mineral basket will solidify its role as a key producer of future metals, stimulating future investment in the mining sector for the country’s benefit.
The Enterprise mine, once in full production, will emerge as Africa’s largest producer of this strategic metal. Nickel, alongside lithium, cobalt, and copper, plays a pivotal role in the batteries required for the new era of ‘green’ vehicles.
Development of the mine and plant resumed last year, backed by an additional US$100 million investment from FQM, aligning with improved market conditions.