Vedanta to increase copper ouput from Zambia mines in 2017

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Anil Agarwal, Vedanta executive chairman

VEDANTA Resources is planning to improve production at its Zambian Konkola Copper mines after a difficult full year to March 2017 in which mined copper metal output was 23.5% lower at 94,000 tonnes.

According to Vedanta Resources chairman, Anil Agarwal the group is focused on “… initiatives both to ramp-up volumes and develop captive power generation sources” in the short term.

In Zambia, the company “experienced some operational challenges during the year” ranging from equipment unavailability, higher electricity tariffs, regulatory issues, and a depreciating Kwacha currency, he said.

Despite these challenges the company has commenced production ramp up at the Nchanga underground mine which had been put under care and maintenance in the third quarter of the previous year.

“The Nchanga underground trial operations are progressing well with improved grades and recoveries. We continue to focus on a further ramp-up and to break through the two million tonne mark for ore production on an annual basis,” said Vedanta CEO, Tom Albanese.

Revenues for the period were 10% lower at $874m while Ebitda earnings came in at $6m, reflecting an improvement from the previous year’s loss of $18m “mainly due to the impact of kwacha appreciation” on VAT receivables.

Unit production costs for the period, excluding royalty payments, surged 5.4% to 209 cents in dollar terms. Zambia has announced revised power tariffs that are 15% lower since the beginning of the 2017 calendar year.

Although mining production at the Zambian copper mines has been subdued, the company’s smelting operations have been firm, with custom volumes rising 31% over the previous year to 84,000 tonnes.

This has been attributed to improved third party concentrate availability and our ability to handle feed rates greater than 70 tonnes per hour” at the smelter.

The company is now focused on an initiative to re-engineer the mine design at Konkola to allow for accelerated dewatering and further mine development. This will help “increase production” from the mine.

Vedanta Resources has now set its focus on accelerating its South African zinc project, which it says will be fully operational next year.

Executives at the company say the South African zinc project’s prospects have been boosted by strengthening market fundamentals for the mineral.

“Our zinc project in Gamsberg, South Africa, is under active construction as we prepare to mine one of the world’s largest deposits of zinc. Given strong zinc market fundamentals, this venture looks increasingly well-timed and we look forward to production going live in 2018,” said Agarwal.

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