Felix Njini Windhoek

Demand for power from new and existing mines in Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, will almost double over the next five years, according to Copperbelt Energy.

Demand from the country’s Copperbelt and Northwestern provinces would increase to 1 550 megawatts by 2019 from 900MW now, Copperbelt Energy corporate development managing director Michael Tarney said on Friday.

Copperbelt Energy, based in Lusaka, is the largest supplier of electricity to mining companies in Zambia, where the local units of companies such as First Quantum Minerals and Glencore Xstrata have expansion projects under way.

The country would commission power projects this year that would boost generation capacity by 39 percent, or 780MW, Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma said last week.

“Demand is being driven by new investments in copper mining and smelting,” Tarney said. “They are all expanding… and this means we have to find more power.”

Demand in the Copperbelt province was projected to rise to 850MW in the next five years from about 650MW now, while it might almost triple to 700MW from 250MW in the Northwestern province as new mining projects began, he said.

First Quantum Minerals’ $1.7 billion (R18.8bn) Sentinel copper project, which will be commissioned in the second half of the year, would require about 400MW once it was fully operational, Tarney said.

The project would help raise Zambia’s copper output to more than 1 million tons next year from 760 000 tons last year, Yaluma said. – Bloomberg