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Barrick Gold Corporation: The Lumwana Mine – Producing Copper for the Future

With a portfolio spanning some of the world’s most prolific copper and gold deposits, Barrick Gold Corporation is a sector-leading gold and copper producer which has an impressive portfolio of high-margin, long-life assets across many prolific copper and gold regions. With these assets, Barrick is focused on delivering continued economic benefits to all of its stakeholders, whilst remaining committed to partnerships within host communities to transform the natural resources of these regions into tangible benefits and mutual prosperity. As the global energy transition continues to take the forefront of the development on a global scale, the mining industry has made key investments into copper mining operations as the metal plays such a valuable role in facilitating the future of renewable energy options. Therefore, Barrick has made a crucial development into Zambia’s Copperbelt to source this valuable resource set on shaping the future of energy development.

Barrick operations span 13 counties with 16 current sites of operation building both copper and gold deposits. However, a key producer of copper for Barrick is in Zambia, where a significant copper deposit can be found. Zambia is one of the largest copper producers on the planet contributing around 4% to the global copper production figures. Copper is fundamental to the global transition towards renewable energy, as it plays a vital role in energy infrastructure, energy storage systems and electric vehicles. However, one of the main issues with the development of copper deposits across the globe currently, is the geopolitical environment in which many are found which has made the supply of the ore often unstable.

Zambia, alternatively, is home to a fairly stable geopolitical climate and so the country is a valuable player in the future of copper development as it works to meet the growing demand for copper on a global scale. This growing demand has already been key to Zambia’s economic growth and the country expects to see a sharp increase over the next few years with an estimated production close to 1 million tons by 2026. Whilst Zambia cannot yet rival the outputs seen in places such as South America, the Zambian government has been investing in the industry and hopes it will one day rival some of the largest copper producers on the planet and subsequently bring exponential economic growth to Zambia in the process.

Barrick’s leading copper operation in Zambia is in the Lumwana Copper mine located 100km west of Solwezi in Zambia’s Copperbelt. The region is one of the most prospective copper deposits in the country, and produces predominately sulphide, which, once treated throughout a conventional sulphide floatation plant, produces copper concentrate for use in a whole range of renewable energy operations. The Lumwana Copper Mine is a conventional open pit mine site, utilising truck, and shovel operations. The mine has a proven and probable copper reserve of 3.0 million tonnes, with 4.0 million in inferred copper resources. In 2023, the mine produced 118,00 tonnes of copper, and by 2024 is set on improving on this figure to grow its role in the global copper production industry.

Copper is used throughout wind turbines, generators, transformers, inverters, electrical cables, power electronics, information cables, solar thermal and cooling energy systems, and solar panels. Therefore, the production of this ore is vital to supporting the infrastructure of the future, especially in the creation of turbines, solar panels and generators which will lead the world towards a future that is run on renewable energy solutions.

One of the other major benefits of copper is that it is completely recyclable and actually has a much higher recycling rate than any other metal. Even through this recycling process, copper benefits from never losing any of its beneficial properties such as conductivity. Therefore, copper once formed into a metal ore is such a versatile and crucial metal that will continue to play a vital role in energy transmission networks now and for many years to come.

To enhance the copper output of the Lumwana Copper Mine, Barrick has set out its Super Pit expansion project which aims to transform Lumwana into one of the world’s major copper mines with an annual production output of around 240,000 tonnes per year over a lifespan of 30+ years. As part of the project, Barrick will be working alongside Zambia’s government to help on their mission to significantly revive the country’s copper industry over the next decade. The project is estimated to cost close to $2 million, and the construction of the Super Pit expansion is planned for the end of this year.

Barrick’s announcement of the Super Pit expansion project in January highlighted how since 2019 Lumwana has contributed close to $3 billion to the Zambian economy spanning from royalties, taxes, salaries and the procurement of goods and services from local businesses. Therefore, we can already see the vast role that Barrick’s Lumwana project has played in developing the Zambian economy, which has seen significant economic benefits to stakeholders across the sector. This has been particularly seen in businesses and employment within the local community which are responsible for $472 million in procurement and covers more than 81% of the total spending for Lumwana.

To further align the operation of the Lumwana Mine with the people of Zambia, Barrick has launched its Business Accelerator Programme which is designed to build the business capacity of Zambian contractors across its supply chains. The programme will therefore equip them with the ability to grow and diversify each of the contractors’ enterprises which will sustain their businesses for years beyond the life of mine span of the Lumwana Mine. This key fostering of relationships within the country, and the sustainability of its operations, is something that President and Chief Executive of Barrick Gold Corporation, Mark Bristow, outlined in the project’s development press release. Bristow outlined that, “In line with Barrick’s partnership philosophy, our RED++ initiative will uplift our host communities through conservation of the natural forest surrounding the mine. Resources have already been allocated and engagement with the communities is underway. We are in discussion with the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to facilitate the required licensing and our partnership with local government”.

As we have seen from Barrick’s operation in Zambia, the copper industry is a rich and lucrative one that is set on delivering significant continued economic benefits for people across the country. By working closely with the government and local stakeholders, Barrick has expanded the mine’s operation and is set on continuing this development to establish Zambia as a leading copper producer across the global mining sector. With renewable energy set on taking centre stage for copper mining operations as the demand for sustainable energy solutions takes an even more prominent role in the world of the future, Barrick is strategically developing the Lumwana Mine to be a key supplier to these markets which will bring economic benefits to the people of Zambia in the process. We look forward to seeing how the Super Pit expansion continues to develop over the rest of the year, and as Lumwana takes centre stage as a key copper producer across the globe.