LUSAKA, (The Southern African Times) – Zambia expects to produce 1 million tonnes of copper in 2021 thanks to growing demand for a metal that is used in electric vehicles, improving prices and more small mines coming into production, the government said on Monday.
“We envisage hitting in excess of 1 million metric tonnes in 2021 from the planned 880,000 metric tonnes for this year,” Mines Minister Richard Musukwa told Reuters.
That would mark a 13.6% increase in output.
Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, is in dire need of hard currency after it became the continent’s first pandemic-era sovereign default last month when it missed a coupon payment on one of its dollar-denominated bonds.
Copper is Zambia’s main foreign exchange earner.
After plunging in March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world economy, copper prices have surged to touch their highest levels since February 2013.
Musukwa said Zambia’s copper output in the year to September was 644,000 tonnes, a 19.3% rise on the same period last year.
“Our projection is to continue increasing production and we have urged all players in the industry to focus on that.”
Separately, Zambia is also seeking to bolster its foreign currency reserves by buying gold – whose dollar value has shot up this year – from Canadian miner First Quantum’s FM.TO Zambia mine and from a mine controlled by state mining investment company ZCCM-IH.