By Nicholas Bariyo
Zambia's third largest copper and cobalt producer said Friday it will complete upgrades at its Mufulira Copper Smelter in December 2013, 18 months ahead of schedule as the miner steps up efforts to boost production and minimize pollution.
The completion of the $114 million upgrade at the smelter will help the company to start manufacturing acid from sulphur dioxide emissions and ease the fractious relationship with the country's authorities over pollution. Mopani is a unit of U.K.-listed Glencore International AG (GLEN.LN)
"This project is in its third and final phase and is expected to be completed ... 18 months earlier than initially agreed with the government," the company said in an emailed statement.
The Mufulira smelter treats at least 800,000 metric tons of copper concentrates from the company's mines in the Copperbelt province as well as third party concentrates from a number of other miners operating in Africa's largest copper producing nation, which is struggling under the burden on inadequate copper treatment facilities.
In April last year, the state-run Zambia Environmental Management Agency ordered the closure of Mopani's leach plant at Mufulira for nearly three weeks after it polluted the environment. Company officials said the company was losing around $100,000 a day during the closure.
opani has invested around $2 billion into its Zambian assets, breathing a new life into the ailing facilities that were on the verge of collapsing in the early 2000s, amid low global copper prices.
Other expansion projects in Zambia include the Synclinorium Shaft at Nkana mine, which will extend the life of the mine by 25 years and safeguard about 3,000 jobs. Currently, the company has the capacity to produce around 200,000 tons of finished copper a year.
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