Uganda to restart copper mining this month after more than 30-year halt

Copper hasn’t been mined there since 1978.

UGANDA may resume copper production in two weeks after a halt that’s lasted more than three decades, according to the group of companies developing the project.

Test runs of equipment have begun at Kilembe near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, project manager Alex Kwatampora Binego said Thursday in an interview in the capital, Kampala.

The group, led by China-based Tibet Hima Industry Co., was awarded a contract to develop copper mines in Uganda in 2013 after pledging $175 million to upgrade operations.

Copper hasn’t been mined there since 1978.

Ore mined will be “slightly” more than 1 percent pure and about 1,500 metric tons of ore a day will be produced, Binego said.

The copper will be purified so that it’s ready for smelting while cobalt of 1.37% to 1.4% purity will be supplied to Kasese Cobalt Company Ltd., he said. Binego previously said that the group was building a processing plant for the mine, which has six deposits, with a daily capacity of 3,030 tons.

Copper prices are trading near the lowest in six years. The metal slumped 18% on the London Metal Exchange this year on concern an economic slowdown in top user China will cut demand.

Metal output

Output at Kilembe, established in 1950 and owned by the East African nation, peaked at 1 million tons a year in 1970, with the smelter producing 18,000 tons of copper in 1964, according to the Uganda Mining Ministry.

Ongoing explorations and global copper prices will determine the construction of a smelter at Kasese, near the mines, Binego said. Proven copper reserves at Kilembe are estimated at 4.5 million to 6 million tons, he said. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said last year that the country has discovered 9 million tons of the mineral at Kilembe.

The group is awaiting approval from the state-run Electricity Regulatory Authority to upgrade a hydropower plant supplying the mines, he said. It plans to increase electricity generation to as much as 17.6 megawatts, he said.

-Bloomberg

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