Drought forces cut in copper output at Zambia’s Chambishi

POWER shortages in Zambia have forced a one-fifth cut in copper production at the Chambishi facilities of Nonferrous Metal Mining Corp. (CNMC), said Reuters on Monday.

The plant, which produces about 250,000 tons of copper a year, is one of the biggest processing facilities in Zambia. But its capacity has been badly hit by drought which has reduced the capacity of state-owned power utility Zesco’s hydropower fleet.

Zambia generates about 87% of its electricity from hydropower. Zesco said last week it would start rationing electricity supplies from March 11.

Chambishi started reducing capacity last week, however, said Reuters.

CNMC is now considering plans to install diesel generators at the plant to help alleviate the impact of power shortages, the newswire said.

The power shortage comes amid a gradual decline in Zambia’s copper production due to lack of new investment at some operations, including Konkola Copper Mines and Mopani Copper Mines.

Output of the metal slumped to about 698,000 tons in 2023 from 763,000 tons the prior year, according to data from the Zambia Chamber of Mines.

Some of Zambia’s smaller producers may also be affected by the power shortages, though its still too early to calculate the overall impact on production, Reuters said.

Zesco plans to meet mining companies on March 14 to discuss ways it could “claw back” about 250 megawatts or 20-25% of supplies, said Reuters.