ZAMBIA officially began its journey to becoming a key player in the new global electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem this week as President Hakainde Hichilema launched the Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila.
Once up and running, First Quantum Minerals’ mine will be the largest producer of the strategic metal in Africa. Nickel, like lithium, cobalt, and copper, is an essential component in the batteries essential for the new era of ‘green’ vehicles.
Designed to process 4 million tonnes of ore and produce around 28,000 tonnes of nickel per year, Enterprise will provide an estimated 700 permanent jobs while making Zambia the largest nickel producer on the continent and the 10th largest producer of the highly sought-after mineral in the world.
“I would like to thank First Quantum for the decision to invest $1.35bn in the expansion of Kansanshi…and to raise additional capital for Enterprise,” said President Hichilema at the ground breaking ceremony for the mine.
“This investment, $1.3bn, will deliver direct and indirect jobs, somewhere in the region of 18,000; and in this country, colleagues, one job supports 10 other members of the family in the house or extended. So if you do your numbers correctly, 18,000 by 10, it’s 180,000 people benefitting. That is where the value sits. So thank you First Quantum,” he added.
“This project will contribute to raising treasury income that we as a prudent government, part of which income we will use to buy a desk for a child who is sitting on the floor today, munokumvwa mwane?
“This [nickel] is the future of our country, to a large extent. This is where this country must go and they must explore these resources sustainably and deliver value for our people,” he said.
“And we are fortunate as a country to host a fair share of these minerals. But if they stay in the ground, we don’t arrange projects like these, we don’t unlock projects like these we will not be able to play our part in keeping our world cleaner and reduce the environmental damage whose consequences we know very well,” he continued.
It was less than three months ago that FQM announced the company’s US$100 million investment into the project at this year’s Mining Indaba, where President Hichilema welcomed the investment and reaffirmed his desire to see more partnerships like this that would turn Zambia into a hub for development and secure the country’s place in the electric vehicle (EV) battery ecosystem.
The nickel processing plant, which was completed in 2016 and given environmental approval, has sat on care and maintenance awaiting favourable market conditions since then.
Now, with the global push for a green energy transition, rising demand for metals like nickel that are integral to the shift, and a new, favourable mining regime, the timing is just right for the nickel operation to finally be fired up.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, FQM CEO Tristan Pascall said: “If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that stability is paramount. As key players in an industry where geopolitical security is so important, the hard work that Zambia has put into protecting that peace and stability does not go unnoticed. Zambia certainly is a prime investment destination for us.
“With over a quarter century of experience under our belt, we appreciate the importance of working hand-in-hand with stakeholders and aligning with government mandates. Soon to become our third operation here, Enterprise project is in our books, a vote of confidence from – and for – the Zambian government and the Zambian people. It is a vote of confidence in our continued transparency, responsibility, and operational excellence.”
“We have been ready to make such an investment for a long time but have been waiting for the conditions to be right, both in terms of the country’s mining policy and the global mineral market.”
President Hichilema, who on multiple occasions has referred to himself as the country’s Chief Marketing Officer, has made leveraging Zambia’s advantageous business environment to grow and diversify the mining industry a number one priority.
“The new administration’s assurance of a more stable, transparent investment environment that will be intolerant to corruption and governed by environmental, social and governance best practices was the nudge of encouragement we needed for this new project,” said FQM Zambia Country Manager General Kingsley Chinkuli.
With the opening of this new operation, the President has secured more jobs, more income, and more opportunities for locals to benefit from local procurement spend and corporate social investment.
This leap to secure Zambia’s stake in the EV battery market will not only shift the country’s economic dependence from copper but will also unlock fresh opportunities for business and innovation in the nickel value chain.