Berkeley Mineral Resources (BMR), through its Zambian subsidiary Enviro Processing Limited (EPL), is planning to reopen Kabwe Mine and is expected to initially invest US$300 million (about K1.5 billion) in its operations. BMR is listed on the London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market. It hopes to commence operations in 2014 / 15.
EPL has been acquiring surface rights in Kabwe and licences over zinc and lead tailing dumps since 2008. It completed the the acquistion of all the relevant assets, surface rights, mining plot and licences in 2012. It says, it “has done a quality intensive verification process of samples in South Africa and we found that there [is] still a large percentage of base minerals in those (tailing) dumps..”. There also other minerals such as indium, silver and gallium inside the tailing dumps.
Kabwe Mine was closed in 1996 after the operations were judged to be “uneconomic”, turning the town into a ‘ghost town’. BMR owns other mineral assets in Zambia. It appears the environmental issues have been sorted out with GRZ. - but as yet no details have been provided.
The ongoing rebirth of Kabwe is good news. I remember in 2006 the town made it into the world’s ten most polluted spots in the world. But thanks to the environmental lobby, within a year the World Bank gave a $50m grant to help clean up the damage. Kabwe is a good reminder that the world is much quicker to respond to "environmental damage" than damage caused by "poverty". Imagine asking the World Bank for $50m to tackle the problem of street children in Kabwe? Would they respond to the query with the same urgency? Not that I am suggesting that we should perpetuate our addiction to foreign aid.
Chola Mukanga | Economist
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