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Zambia's mining minister expects Mopani Copper Mines deal by end-March

Kitco News

CAPE TOWN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Mopani Copper Mines will secure a new investor by the end of this quarter, Zambia's mines minister Paul Kabuswe said on Monday, calling the complex owned by state mining investment firm ZCCM-IH a "critical asset" for the country's copperbelt.

There are 10 suitors for the mine and smelter complex, including South Africa-listed mining firm Sibanye-Stillwater and "one or two" Chinese mining firms, Kabuswe said in an interview on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba in Cape Town. Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman in October told Reuters the company was interested in Mopani.

"There is interest from all over, including the Arab world," Kabuswe said, declining to name any of the other interested parties. Asked about the competition for African metals and minerals pitting the United States and Europe against China, Kabuswe said Zambia did not differentiate between investors provided they brought value into the country. "We are dealing with the Arab world, we are dealing with the U.S., we are dealing with China, we are not biased towards anyone," Kabuswe said. "We are friendly to everybody."

Zambia is also aiming for an agreement with Konkola Copper Mines owner Vedanta Resources by the end of the first quarter, Kabuswe said. Zambia last year decided to seek an out-of-court settlement with Vedanta after a lengthy dispute over KCM. Increasing Zambia's copper production is necessary to reduce the country's debt burden, Kabuswe said, as growth in the mining industry will trigger investment in infrastructure and other sectors.

Zambia has set a goal of increasing copper production to 3 million tonnes a year by 2032. The country is struggling to cut debt after becoming the continent's first COVID-era default in 2020. (Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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