A copper capsule for spent nuclear fuel is pictured during the test in the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository in Olkiluoto nuclear plant area in Eurajoki

JOHANNESBURG - Global metals and mining company First Quantum has urged Zambia to ensure competitiveness and stability in the sector in order to attract foreign direct investment and regain its slot as Africa's largest copper producer.

Essential to this is a competitive electricity tariff structure that reflects the true cost of power production, including the fully depreciated hydropower facilities that are the backbone of the country’s generation, First Quantum's head of government affairs John Gladston told a conference in Lusaka this week.

"We have every intention of making Zambia reclaim its rightful position as Africa’s number one copper producer. And I think that is entirely achievable,” he said.

Zambia is currently the second largest producer after the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The country produced 755,000 tonnes in 2017, ranking it seventh globally, while the DRC produced 850,000 metric tonnes, and DRC ranked sixth in the world with global leader Chile producing 5.33 million tonnes.

“Fundamental to long-term private sector investment is knowing what the costs will be for the life of its investment in Zambia, and that a natural equilibrium must be sought to ensure equitable benefits between investors, government and communities,” Gladston said.

First Quantum says current electricity tariffs do not reflect the underlying production cost, and that reforms are needed to improve the operational efficiency of national electricity utility ZESCO.

The Canadian-based company has invested over US$6.4 billion in its Sentinel and Kansanshi Mines and the Kansanshi Smelter and has paid more than US$3.5 billion in taxes in the last 11 years.

- African News Agency (ANA)