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:: Vedanta Starts New Zambian Smelter, Sacks 677 at Old One
Konkola Copper Mines Plc (KCM), the Zambian company that Vedanta Resources Plc owns 79% stake in, has shut its 0.15 million tonne Nkana copper smelter after starting operations at a new 0.3 million tonne smelter in Nchanga near the country's capital Lusaka.
On the condition of anonymity, a Vedanta official said, "We have shifted operations to a new smelter in Nchanga. The new smelter has better technology that will help save costs."
Rahul Kharkar, the head of corporate affairs at Konkola Copper, told DNA Money, "We have absorbed as many employees as possible and the 677 made redundant (at the Nkana smelter) have been retrenched." The Vedanta official added, "Redundant employees have been given separation packages with the consent of the labour union. Nkana had both a refinery and a smelter and no jobs have been cut at the refinery."
The new smelter is part of the $1-billion investment that Vedanta has planned in Zambia, said the official. "We want to cut the cost of production at Konkola and the new smelter is a part of our long-term plan. In December, the cost of production at Nkana was just over $2 per pound of copper. We want to bring it down to $1.25 per pound or even lower," he added.
According to the website of Konkola Copper, the Nchanga smelter has been built using the Outokumpu Flash Smelting technology with an investment of $300 million. The 1,850-tonne a day sulphuric acid plant at the smelter also uses advanced technology and so is environment-friendly, the company said.
Vedanta is looking to increase the copper ore production at its Zambian subsidiary through the Konkola Deep Mining Project.
The project, with an investment of $400 million, will increase annual production from 2 million tonne now to 6 million tonne. It is scheduled for completion in 2010.
Kharkar said that Konkola Copper has aiming at a target of 0.5 million tonne of copper smelting annually and the new smelter has a capacity of 0.3 million tonne. "We may revamp the Nkana smelter at a later stage when we feel the time is right to expand. This may happen in a year and a half." He did not say whether the old smelter would be revamped or a new smelter would be step up.
The Nchanga smelter will handle not only the increased output from Konkola Deep Mining Project but also concentrates from other mines in Zambia.
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