THERE’S LOOMING COPPER DEFICIT ,BUT WERE TOO BUSY WITH ELECTIONS?
AS usual we are all excited with campaigns and elections, we have forgotten life will have to go on after elections.
Depending on how long the celebrations and political excitement will last by whoever wins on August 12 so that they start putting their act together, we are likely to miss out on the opportunity to strategically place ourselves to benefit from the looming copper deficit that has seen prices break the historical US$10, 000 per ton barrier and are likely to continue with the upward cyclic trend well into 2025.
There is not much time left to prepare to benefit from the copper boom bonanza window. We have already lost the first half of this year to electioneering than national wealth creation. We must start planning to increase our present copper production beyond the psychological one million tons achieved 40 years ago for us to see the benefit.
All forecasts indicate that copper prices are expected to shoot up in the next three years to US$15, 000 per ton, even higher. This is also the period that Zambia will be facing huge pressure to pay off its Eurobond debts and that is regardless of who wins the elections.
But Zambia has not put in place or if we have, we have not announced these plans to increase production so that we can benefit from higher prices due to the forthcoming scramble for the little copper that will be available on the world market.
Fresh copper metal entering the market, excluding recycled material, has remained static at 15 million tons annual demand during the last two decades driven only by Chinese growth and export demand.
But when you look at the Paris climate goals, there is a strong demand for green energy and copper is the only commodity to replace dirty crude oil all over the world.
It takes five years from greenfield exploration and about two to three years from brownfield exploration to full scale mine production for this most cost-effective conductive metal used for capturing, storing and transporting electrical energy.
Zambia is home to untapped rich copper ore bodies that will play a key role in the new world transition to a new green world economy that will require an additional eight to 10 million tons of freshly mined copper for use in electric vehicles, solar, and wind generation plants including new intelligent wireless electricity transmission gadgets.
It is for this reason we must put in place concrete plans to fund our Geological Survey Department to map out more copper occurrences and workable deposits around the country to enable us to increase the production of what will become the most important, the most sought after and the most traded commodity in the world.
Before we nationalised the mines in 1973, we were Africa’s number one copper producer, and we also produced 100, 000 tons more copper than Chile, a country that has become the number one copper producer in the world at 5.4 million tons.
We have remained at 1973 levels of below 750, 000 metric tons and we have even been surpassed by Congo DR which had always remained a close second producer in Africa.
Copper prices will shoot up because all mining news about the copper industry indicates it is not ready for the forthcoming spike in demand.
When Glencore left its Zambian mining assets, the company took this decision because it was the trend all over the mining world.
There has not been real investment in new mine projects and so essentially, the copper market is sleepwalking into a really sizeable supply crunch similar to what we saw in the market during the 2008-2009 world economic meltdown.
Ultimately, it will take incredibly high copper prices to encourage new mining investments from the likes of Glencore who will regret leaving Mopani after investing US$4.8 billion to increase production with a new concentrator and mine shaft.
And from the look of things, Glencore managers will definitely be sorry, may be fired, if they see we can put our act together and increase production riding on their investments for increased production at Mopani and not to forget the inclusion of a new Vedanta smelter at KCM.
Keep in mind, until there is a really sharp increase in mine investments in the world and capex goes back to the late 2000s levels, and we can see that new investments in these mines are only about half of their 2000s levels at the moment, the two Zambian mining houses MCM and KCM are more equipped to quickly retool and increase copper production for us to start to benefit.
But we need to float lucrative incentives to miners if we want to boost copper production to beyond current cumulative below one million tons mine production numbers at Kansanshi, Kalumbila, Lumwana and encourage traditional mining activity at KCM and MCM on the Copperbelt.
Seriously, we shall hold ourselves to blame if we do not strategically plan ahead to increase our copper production because we are already in the second half of the first year of a multiyear bull market ahead of us.
Our traditional tax-based mining policies have collapsed enthusiasm in mining. We must design new programmes that will refocus the mining industry from a tax collection to a direct economic investor in the economy.
All mining activity in Zambia and mining zones must be export-free zones in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation to start enjoying all incentives related to export free enterprises in Zambia. Under these measures, all capital expenditure on exploration, development and operations incurred wholly and exclusively on mining operations, including expenditure incurred on prospecting and exploration undertaken for the purpose of acquiring rights to minerals to be allowed in full under special export zone deductions.
Perhaps ZCCM-IH and IDC can also look at strategies to annex the Geological Survey from government or create its own wing as it looks at ways to include these lucrative mining incentives that may start to attract new foreign mining investors under their portfolio.
Just a thought,