Finance Minister Hon. Felix Mutati visited the “mega investment” at the heart of the nation’s economy on Saturday (October 29), paving the way for a new era of co-operation between the government and First Quantum Minerals, the country’s largest tax-payer.
The minister toured First Quantum Minerals’ Sentinel mine in Kalumbila to see for himself how the nation’s largest copper miner is generating economic growth for the country through investment in state-of-the-art equipment, expertise and innovation to enable the low-grade copper deposit to be mined viably.
“An operation such as this one doesn’t need to have the challenges of power, and I think that’s critically important. An investment of this scale also requires a level of certainty and predictability so as we dispatch policy we have to be mindful we are dealing with mega investment and therefore can’t afford to shift around because these trucks can’t go into reverse; they can only go forward,” said Mr Mutati as he inspected some of the company’s 400-tonne trucks, some of the largest in the world.
“I don’t think you could do a better job rather than invest in something as huge as this. These trucks are eating 250 tonnes in a go; that’s phenomenal. Well done you guys,” he told company executives.
Despite depressed copper prices, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has invested US$5.7 billion in its Sentinel and Enterprise mines, and Kansanshi mine and smelter, and has paid more than US$3 billion in taxes in the last ten years, transforming the economy of North-Western Province and creating employment for more than 8,500 people.
In addition to being Zambia’s largest taxpayer, First Quantum Minerals produces around two thirds of the nation’s copper. The metal accounts for 60 percent of Zambia’s exports.
In welcoming the minister’s confidence in the company’s operations, FQM head of government affairs John Gladston said: “We are looking forward to a new era of close partnership between First Quantum and the new government based on mutual respect and understanding. What is good for First Quantum Minerals is good for the nation of Zambia; the fortunes of the company and the copper industry as a whole are closely linked to that of the country, and thus it is imperative that we work together to safeguard the future of the sector.”
Among the issues discussed during the three-day visit from Friday to Sunday were the requirements for stabilisation of electricity supplies to the mines, approval for a Multi-Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) at Kalumbila, and completion of the Solwezi-Chingola road.
“The MFEZ will happen. There is a solution and it will happen pretty soon. We discussed it this morning; the Minister of Commerce was with us; she has left to begin to work on the solution. Government is as determined as that, and if the minister can go back to work on the MFEZ at the weekend then we are pretty serious,” said the Finance Minister.