MINING giant First Quantum Minerals Limited (FQM) is sitting on 60,000 tonnes of copper concentrates worth US$100 million from its Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi because all smelters on the Copperbelt, are heavily congested with the mineral.
FQM Director of Operations Matt Pascall said the mine had milled the copper ore into 60 000 tonnes of concentrate but had failed to turn it into copper cathode at the various smelters on the Copperbelt as they were all crammed up.
FQM does not own a smelter of its own and has to transport the concentrates to smelters on the Copperbelt owned by fellow copper mining firms like Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) in Chingola.
Mr Pascall asked Government for a duty waiver on the concentrates which stands at 10 per cent so that the pile-up of the concentrates could be rid of.
"We are sitting on as much as 60,000 tonnes of copper concentrate here in Solwezi and it is worth US$100 million, the smelters on the Copperbelt are choker blocker and we can not export this concentrate because it will attract a 10 per cent duty and that makes it more expensive," he said.
Mr Pascall, whose company is investing $2 billion in a new mine Sentinel at Kalumbila, 120 kilometres from Kansanshi, said Government stood to gain more money in allowing his firm to take the concentrates to smelters in neighbouring countries for processing.
He explained that if his firm sent the concentrates to neighbouring countries for processing into cathodes, the 10 per cent duty on the material
would see Government get just $10 million but that, if his company was given a waiver, Government stood to gain US$40 million in tax on profit.
"As is it now, we are shall keep this concentrate until our time comes in the queues at the smelters but meanwhile, the mines will continue to produce more which we shall keep piling up," he said.
Because of the increased production at Kansanshi which last year produced about 400,000 tonnes of finished copper and the planned commencement of mining at Sentinel, FQM has decided to invest in its own smelter at Kansanshi in Solwezi.
The Kansanshi smelter which would produce up to 300,000 tonnes of finished copper, would cost FQM $630 million and would be as high as 100 metres, making it the highest structure in the country, even higher than Fidenco House in Lusaka.
Even with the new smelter, Kanshanshi production levels would be higher than the smelter capacity and would still see them take some of their copper concentrate to the Copperbelt.