Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the country’s largest integrated copper producer has launched the first bio-diesel production project in Zambia.

The project aims to cultivate elite Pongamia Pinnata trees for bio-diesel production at a mining waste site.

At an event held in Chingola yesterday, Minister of Works and Supply Matthew Nkhuwa planted elite Pongamia trees on a four-hectare site at a tailings dump, as part of a pilot programme to determine the viability of producing bio-diesel from the trees.

The project has the potential to create at least 500 jobs in agro-forestry, farming, bio-energy processing and energy service delivery. The full, commercial project is targeted for 650 hectares of land with 400,000 trees to be planted at an estimated cost of US$7 million.

Nkhuwa observed that “the government is spending huge amounts of money to import fuel into the country every month. With projects such as this, the burden on the government will be lighter and resources may be channelled to other areas for holistic development.”

KCM Chief Executive Officer Steven Din said during the event that the project attested to his company’s commitment to invest in clean energy and best-in-breed environmental practices, as an integral part of the KCM’s vision for sustainable development.

“The trees we have planted here will re-vegetate a disused dump site, suck-up impurities and fix back nitrogen to the soil, improving its fertility. In addition to all this, employment will be created for the local people,’’ Din said.

The mining industry in Zambia is one of the largest consumers of energy. With Zambia anticipating growth from multiple sectors, there is forecast to be an increase in demand for energy.

KCM is working in partnership with Better World Energy to deliver the project, which is designed to fertilise the bare land which KCM currently cannot use for agriculture purposes. In addition, the project will provide a cheap and environmental-friendly source of energy for the mining company.