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Zambia achieves record high copper production in 2020, minister says

02/23/2021 | 03:59am EST
FILE PHOTO: A truck travels underground to collect ore at the Chibuluma copper mine

LUSAKA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Zambia produced 882,061 tonnes of copper in 2020, up 10.8% from 796,430 tonnes produced in 2019, Mines Minister Richard Musukwa said on Tuesday, calling it a "historical high" for Africa's second-largest copper producer.

Musukwa said Zambia aims to produce more than 900,000 tonnes of copper in 2021, and has a long-term goal of exceeding 1 million tonnes in annual production.

A worldwide shift to electric cars, which use much more copper than cars using traditional combustion engines, is expected to boost production of the metal, Musukwa said.

"The prospects for the mining sector look positive despite COVID-19," Musukwa said.

Copper was discovered in Zambia in the late 19th century, and in the 1950s the Zambian copper belt dominated global production of the metal.

Zambia's cobalt production, however, fell 21.8% in 2020, to 287 tonnes from the 367 tonnes produced in 2019. Musukwa put that drop down to reduced cobalt mineralisation and operational challenges at Konkola Copper Mine.

Gold production fell to 3,579 kg in 2020 from 3,913 kg in 2019 as ore grades at the Kansanshi mine fell, the minister said in a statement.

State-owned Zambia Gold Company, which buys and processes gold from artisanal and small-scale miners, sold 47.9 kg of gold to the Bank of Zambia at the end of last year as part of efforts to build the country's gold reserves. The company started producing gold in May last year.

"I wish to commend the company for a job well done," Musukwa said.

Nickel production more than doubled to 5,712 tonnes in 2020 from 2,500 in 2019, Musukwa said, adding that restructuring and streamlining of nickel operations had helped drive production up.

Zambia's manganese production jumped 79% to 28,409 tonnes in 2020 from 15,904 tonnes in 2019. With manganese mainly produced by small-scale miners, Musukwa said increased formalization of manganese operations helped boost production. (Reporting by Chris Mfula in Lusaka; writing by Helen Reid in Johannesburg; editing by Catherine Evans, Jason Neely and Louise Heavens)

© Reuters 2021
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