Vedanta prioritises African operations

Deshnee Naidoo, CEO of Vedanta’s Africa Base Metals has reiterated that her focus will be to create deeper synergies for the company’s operations in South Africa, Zambia and Namibia to ensure sustainable growth across the region.

Naidoo was providing an update on Vedanta’s African operations. Speaking to journalists in Lusaka, she said that the priority at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), where she is the new CEO, will be to target integrated copper production at 200 000 metric tonnes in the current financial year (2018/2019) from just under 100 000 metric tonnes in the previous year.

Image credit: Konkola Copper Mines

Naidoo said she would cement the ‘basic building blocks’ set up by the departing KCM CEO Steven Din, in order to produce more copper cathodes in support of the 50-year vision for Vedanta Resources to continue mining for copper in Zambia.

“KCM has an attractive orebody and major capital in excess of USD3-billion has already been invested. Our strategy with business partners is about creating shared value among stakeholders, the employees, the government and the communities,” she says in reference to technical business partners KCM has engaged to assist with mining, water management at the Konkola Deep mine and equipment maintenance in the company.

“My job is to stabilise the business at base level, to ensure reliable production and make sure that we can reach the ultimate 400 000 tonnes production level of integrated growth within the next few years.”

She adds that KCM and the other African operations would continue to mine within a context of environmental protection. The planting of 89 000 trees in the last 13 years in communities and schools in the Copperbelt region and KCM plant areas, and the removal of 500 000 metric tonnes of silt in 2017 from the Muntimpa Dam and streams within Chingola town is the assurance of the KCM Go Green initiatives. The company is also providing fresh drinking water through solar-powered boreholes to over 8 000 people in Chingola.

In addition, plans to invest USD300-million in a 300MW coal-fired power plant in southern Zambia were on course following the commencement of a pre-feasibility study. The proposed plant would support KCM growth at the Konkola deep mine, the setting up of a cobalt refinery and other growth projects.

She also says Vedanta Africa Base Metals is looking at constructing another power plant at the Gamsberg project in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. “In South Africa, we are looking at building a Zinc refinery. Smelters and refineries are power-hungry and so as part of that scope we are looking at a 200MW power plant, it will be an integrated plant, using both renewable energy and coal-fired power,” Naidoo says.

Production is set to start at Gamsberg within a month, and the mine should ramp up to full production of 250 000t annually in about a year.

Giving an update on Skorpion Zinc operations in Namibia, Naidoo said that the option of underground mining at the mine when the company’s open-pit operations become exhausted around 2020 are slim.

“We have drilled it out and it is looking less likely that there will be another underground mine, but the other option is to look at whether after this current push back we can do mining through a decline to extract whatever else we can get. As it stands, we might only extend life for another two to three years through a decline or open pit,” she says.

Naidoo concluded by saying that there were numerous opportunities across Africa Base Metals’ operational geographies to sustain the company and communities in its areas of operations.