First Quantum Minerals (FQM) says the mining firm is bound to increase its share of mining tax revenues to the Zambian government as it works towards boosting production and earning a profit.

And FQM head of government relations, John Gladstone said his firm is determined to help Zambia reclaim its ranking as Africa’s biggest copper producer.

He said the mining giant is bound to contribute more to the Zambian government in mining tax revenues, once it becomes profitable and has increased its copper output.

“We are not profit making yet, so we are not paying corporate tax yet, as soon as we do, we will start and that means more revenue for the government. But for last year, we contributed US$146 million in mineral royalties and customs, these are big numbers that will get bigger. And the reason I know they will get bigger is that our sister mine, which is a 100 kilometres away, since 2005, have contributed US$3.5 billion in tax. If we can maintain this kind of production of copper, we can reclaim our position as the number one copper producer in Africa. And we can do that because in June this year, when we become more and more competitive, Zambia will benefit more because we will employ Zambians. Some keep on asking, ‘are you going to employ Zambians?’ Why won’t we employ Zambians? We have got great engineers produced by the universities in this country, so, we are on the right track,” Gladstone told News Diggers! in an interview on the side-lines of the just-ended 8th ZIMEC in Lusaka.

He observed that Zambia is capable of becoming a top African copper producer following an increase in the number of tonnes of copper produced by different mining firms.

“This is a country whose history runs deeply in terms of minerals and what we have seen in the last couple of years is very encouraging. And what we would like to see as a company is that we would like to see Zambia retain that position as number one Africa’s copper producer. And I think that’s entirely achievable and First Quantum Minerals Zambia will work towards that target. It really is quite interesting that we keep finding mineral resources in Zambia and even though we haven’t really started making profits, we have made a town in Solwezi. So, we use some of the biggest mining vehicles in the world. In the world, our mine is one of the biggest you can ever see and then there are many others, which inevitably means that we are capable of becoming Africa’s biggest copper producer again. You won’t find anything else like that in Africa, it’s about scale. The whole mine is about scale. We have massive storage facilities, but we need 600 tonnes of material to produce 1 tonne of copper. And that is what I was showing even in the presentation. After 55 million tonnes per annum produced when we are fully operational, when we are at a top speed, we hope to produce between 250 [thousand] and 300 [thousand] tonnes of copper per year. And Zambia will become a world-class market,” Gladstone added.

FQM’s Kansanshi Mining Plc and Kalumbila Minerals were last year’s top-producing mines out of the entire 10 large-scale mining companies in the country, with the former posting 248,570 tonnes, while the latter produced an estimated 185,337 tonnes last year, up from a total of 143,659 tonnes in 2016.

This significantly pushed Zambia’s total copper production last year to an estimated 787,720 tonnes from 770,587 tonnes recorded in 2016, according to official Ministry of Mines data.

Gladstone also outlined that FQM had brought meaningful development to the people in North-Western Province, pledging to do even more as copper production increases.

“We built a town [Kalumbila, Zambia’s newest town] in the remote areas, so remote we need to look after our local people. So, we built a town, fully-serviced, sewerage, water, electricity, trash, over a 1,000 houses so far and there are shops, markets, ATMs. An ATM in the bush! That wasn’t easy. And so, you can stop to see the level of development that we delivered there and, of course, we are constructing roads. These roads will make it easy to transport copper to the designated areas, but also, they will benefit the local people there. This means even people in this remote place can easily move to and from certain places without any trouble. In that time, we also ensure that there are opportunities to diversify business from copper. We develop business models and help the locals to start businesses and we know that the government of Zambia is behind that, it is behind us and that is what we would love to see.