Zambia seeking equity partner for Konkola Copper Mines despite ownership dispute

Konkola Copper Mines: Nchanga Smelter.

ZAMBIA said it had started the search for an equity investor for its Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) even as a court case disputing its ownership is to be heard in January 2023.

“The search for a strategic investor in Konkola Copper Mines has started in earnest,” said KCM provisional liquidator Celine Nair in a statement reported by Reuters.

The strategic equity investor would be required to guarantee the development of the company’s $1.1bn Konkola Deep Mining Project, she said.

Firms invited to submit a proposal to act as adviser include international banks Citibank Investment Banking Group, Standard Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Rothschild, Rand Merchant Bank and InvestEcon, Nair told Reuters.

KCM is 85% owned by Vendata, the Indian mining conglomerate. However, the company holding the asset was unilaterally put into liquidation by the Zambian government then led by former president, Edgar Lungu.

Vedanta argued that a shareholders’ meeting ought to have been convened prior to putting the company into liquidation.

The government takeover of KCM will go to an arbitration hearing in January 2023 in London, Zambia mines minister Paul Kabuswe said on June 1.

In the meantime, Nair said mining of KCM’s open pit mine would be reopened.

KCM plans to spend $17m on an annual maintenance shutdown of the Nchanga Smelter, which has an annual capacity of 311,000 tons of copper, said Nair, who also announced other measures to expand output in the Konkola East operation.

“We are looking at various options to improve production at KCM for the benefit of the company and the nation,” Nair said.