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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Copper in Luapula

This announcement should come as no surprise. The entire country is full of minerals, the problem is that the geological maps have never been updated. In the meantime, what happened to the oil exploration?

5 comments:

  1. I'll move away slightly from the topic but still stick to mining. You know what, one of the interesting things mentioned by prof Chirwa was that Zambia's iron deposits were more than the copper deposits. I found this rathere interesting and wondered why we have not yet tapped into the steel industry? Is it that the quality of iron in Zambia is not good or is it simply not financially feasible to exploit it? As far as oing his research is concerned, I gave the prof 9.9 out of 10 as I learned a lot of things about Zambia that I had not known before. When he mentioned the iron deposits and how he would like to exploit that industry as President, I actually warmed to the idea and imagined so many of the unemployed Zambians taking on jobs and more houses, schools, medical facilities being built around these new mining towns in time. However, there was no mention of 1) why we have not exploited the industry before 2) How he intends to turn this around.
    Would appreciate any views from Cho's readership as this sounds like a lucrative deal on paper. I just don't know how feasible it is.

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  2. Meantime, Bloomberg are carrying this report:

    African Copper Receives Financing Offer From Zambia Copper


    By Mark Herlihy

    April 16 (Bloomberg) -- African Copper Plc, a company exploring for the metal in Botswana, said it received an unsolicited offer of finance from Zambia Copper Investments Ltd.

    ZCI proposes buying 676.6 million new shares of African Copper, raising $9.9 million, London-based African Copper said today in a statement distributed by Market Wire. The completion of the transaction would give ZCI a 70 percent stake in African Copper. (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601116&sid=aJQD_znf._Ew&refer=africa)

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  3. How about gold deposits in Zambia? It appears the mineral belt running from the Congo through Zambia, Angola, Botswana to South Africa is very similar, and in each of these countries there's significant gold mining, except Zambia. Then again, I'm not a mining expert, just recalling what little chemistry I learnt at school.

    Perhaps "Kafue", Yakima and others with more info in that area could shed more light.

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  4. Me, I don't know. A geologist would have better info. All I can say is the value of a mineral deposit depends on the size of the deposit, whether it is high grade or low grade ore and the ease with which it can be accessed (deep underground or near the surface).

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  5. "How about gold deposits in Zambia? It appears the mineral belt running from the Congo through Zambia, Angola, Botswana to South Africa is very similar, and in each of these countries there's significant gold mining, except Zambia." -Zedian

    "You know what, one of the interesting things mentioned by prof Chirwa was that Zambia's iron deposits were more than the copper deposits. I found this rathere interesting and wondered why we have not yet tapped into the steel industry? Is it that the quality of iron in Zambia is not good or is it simply not financially feasible to exploit it?" -Afriwoman

    These are really good questions. I have very much enjoyed examining literature on the issue, even as a non-geologist. The comparison between iron and gold offers particularly sharp contrasts due to their relative abundance or scarcity in the earth's crust. Iron is highly abundant, comprising a full 5% (one part in 20), whereas copper makes up a mere 0.0058% (one part in 17241), and gold constitutes a tiny 0.0000002% (one part in 500 million).

    Thus the short answer to the iron questions are: Doubtless there are significantly pure deposits of iron in the country, which have clearly not been deemed economical to exploit for domestic steel production. I suspect that this has to do with the historical emphasis on raw material exports as the path of least resistance to wealth (for someone), as well as widespread dumping practices throughout the history of the international steel industry. Iron ore is worth 20 to 40 times less than copper by the tonne, but the transport costs are the same, so as long as there is copper to export, mining companies will seek to exploit it first. The single greatest hurdle to fostering a steel industry going forward is energy supplies, efficient steel production requires not only massive capital investment but also prodigious amounts of power which are currently being (over)-used by the existing copper and cobalt extraction and processing operations.

    And the short answer on the gold questions are: Gold is not only rare, but also very heavy relative to other particles, so we generally only find concentrations of it in locations where a particular sequence of relatively uncommon conditions all occur in the right place and in the right order. Essentially you need an upward magma intrusion into the lithosphere beneath the crust that lifts heavy elements all the way to the boundary zones where surface water percolates and heats under pressure to over 5000C. At that point individual gold molecules will effectively dissolve into the water flow, which must then maintain its heat while also migrating upward through relatively narrow fissures (to maintain pressure and thus retain extreme heat and prevent transition to gas or steam). As the liquid finally cools slightly (but still remains under sufficient pressure as to remain liquid), the molecules of gold will drop out, but still as individuals, unless this cooling occurs in an eddy portion of the liquid flow, causing a high proportion of the gold to stop in the same place as it is released from the superheated liquid. Other metals with different properties will drop out of the solution at different pressures and temperatures. Some particular conditions encourage nuggets, others veins, but the underlying theory on how such a rare substance ever gets concentrated at all is essentially the same. Thus gold is similar to iron, in that there probably are some significant concentrations somewhere in Zambia, and other factors have impeded its discovery to date, primarily that copper is a more certain bet (all the gold ever refined in the whole world fits inside a 30 meter cube, uranium is about ten thousand times more common).

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