MOPANI Copper Mines yesterday unveiled a US$27 million (KR142 million) project for upgrading its cobalt plant aimed at securing more than 300 jobs.

According to a press release made available yesterday, Mopani Copper Mines chief executive officer Danny Callow stated that the project was critical to Zambia's economy as the government seeks ways of creating more jobs and sustaining existing ones.

Callow stated that the upgrade of the Nkana Cobalt Plant was expected to result in an increase in production capacity from 2,800 tonnes to 7,000 tonnes of cobalt metal per annum.

The upgrade will also improve the quality of the metal produced.
Additionally and more importantly, this investment will secure and sustain more than 300 jobs, he indicated.

"I'm happy that our Cobalt Plant will resume operations next year following the approval of KR142, 000,000 investments into the upgrade of the plant.

This investment will not only more than double production, but will also secure more that 300 jobs as well as sustain government revenue, not to mention other spillover benefits for suppliers, contractors and the surrounding communities," stated Callow.

"The upgrade is in line with our Company's objectives and government plans to increase investment so as to create more jobs and sustain existing ones. This investment will make a significant contribution to Zambia's economy."

And Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda commended Mopani for the initiative.

Shamenda said what Mopani had done was one of the best industrial practices the PF government was looking for.

"I wish all companies could take a leaf from Mopani and invest in production and protect jobs for our people. This is how any responsible company should behave. Some companies are looking at every opportunity to retrench people, but Mopani has shown commitment to creating and sustaining jobs," Shamenda said.

And Kitwe mayor Chileshe Bweupe said the imminent reopening of the Nkana Cobalt Plant following investment by Mopani was the best news received so far by the city council, especially looking at the number of jobs that would be secured and the obvious trickledown effect to the city's economy.

The upgrade of the plant would enable processing of intermediate cobalt hydroxide from third-party concentrates to produce cobalt metal.

The Cobalt plant will also have expanded cobalt electrowining capacity, full nickel removal and manganese rejection process and improved filtration technology.
The investment will also facilitate production of a nickel by-product from third party concentrate feed.
The plant is expected to be commissioned in June next year.