Harvesting potential in Zambian copper

The future looks bright for FLSmidth in Zambia with three O&M proposals active in the market

The future looks bright for FLSmidth in Zambia with three O&M proposals active in the market

With a successful and ongoing O&M project in Zambia, FLSmidth is poised to take advantage of the growing potential in Africa’s Copperbelt.

In late 2009, circumstances aligned that ultimately led to the creation of a new FLSmidth company and the mobilisation of over 200 staff in Zambia. Over the course of nine months, FLSmidth moulded an agreement with Konkola Copper Mines to take over the maintenance of their Nchanga copper concentrator. The project involved not just supplying labour, but also taking responsibility for overall maintenance.

International team works on tight deadline
In only three months, a team assembled from FLSmidth offices in Salt Lake City and Bethlehem, USA, as well as Santiago, Chile, Copenhagen, Denmark and Gauteng, South Africa – along with the new Zambian management team – recruited, inducted and commenced maintenance with more than 200 maintenance artisans, electricians, planners, assistants and administrators.

The mobilisation project was on the tightest schedule possible, with large potential costs for not meeting the deadline. The first step involved creating an FLSmidth company in Zambia. Then, from procuring tools, PPE and consumables, to buying vehicles and finding a suitable base location, the team set about building all of the infrastructure that goes with running an organisation. At the same time, the team created maintenance and materials plans from the ground up, based on the template taken to Zambia by O&M representatives from Chile.

All the preliminary details were in place on 14 August 2010, one day before the deadline: but the work didn’t end there. The plant is old and has a large range of equipment in varying conditions. The FLSmidth team has continuously worked with the client to improve the equipment and plant conditions. They have also steadily improved the quality of the systems, training and work methods while pushing availability and production upwards. In a fitting reward for all their efforts, the team achieved the production bonus in the first three months and has gone on to achieve the bonus in each successive quarter.

Bright future in growing industry
For O&M, the hard work at Nchanga will continue. The old plant still requires continual adaption and problem solving. However, the team recently commenced a management-training programme, and formalisation of the training programme and employee development is underway. With this continual effort, the coming year should be tough, but rewarding.

The future looks bright for FLSmidth in Zambia with three O&M proposals active in the market and a recent order for SAG and Ball Millsat First Quantum Minerals Sentinel project (see page 7). The Zambian economy is growing and the political climate is stable and supportive of the industry. After the privatisation of Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), together with a total mineral resource of at least two billion tonnes on the Copperbelt alone, there is no doubt that copper production will soon begin a significant upward trend.

Zambia is currently ranked as the world’s seventh largest copper producer – generating 3.3 percent of the western world’s production – and Bloomberg’s recent note on the future of mining stated that the country could become the world’s fifth largest copper producer by 2013.

CONTACT: Peter Kilner