Publication: Mining Weekly
Date: 6 December 2019
Author: Mamaili Mamaila
Diversified natural resources producer Eurasian Resources Group’s (ERG’s) copper and cobalt activities are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, with ERG CEO Benedikt Sobotka noting that Metalkol RTR and Frontier Mine are the company’s operational and copper-producing assets.
Metalkol RTR is a major producer of copper cathode and cobalt in hydroxide. It is located in Lualaba province, about 26 km west of Kolwezi.The copper/cobalt project was commissioned in 2018 and is poised to become the world’s second-largest producer of cobalt and a significant producer of copper.
The environment-friendly project extracts tailings from the Kingamyambo and Musonoi deposits, both a result of historical operations in the region, for reprocessing at a centralised hydrometallurgical facility.
“Upon completion of a second phase of development, Metalkol RTR will produce 105 000 t/y of copper and 20 000 t/y of cobalt, with further opportunities to increase to more than 120 000 t/y copper and 24 000 t/y cobalt,” says Sobotka.
Metalkol RTR has recently been described by research company S&P Global as the world’s most cost-effective primary copper mine, highlighting the hydraulic mining method it employs, which significantly lowers mining and processing costs.
The Metalkol RTR operation is also at the heart of ERG’s strategic relationship with China, which accounts for 20% to 25% of ERG’s total sales volumes, supporting the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“ERG, through Metalkol RTR and other operations, is well positioned to continue to support China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is helping address the infrastructure gap on the African continent by organising the financing and resources needed to complete major industrial projects.”
Meanwhile, Frontier Mine is a large producer of copper concentrate and is located in Haut-Katanga province near the town of Sakania, within 2 km of the Zambian border.
The Frontier operations comprise a large-scale openpit mine and flotation plant, which can produce more than 100 000 t/y of copper contained in concentrate. Frontier has a long record of producing high-quality concentrate, which makes it a supplier of choice in the regional refining sector.
The mine produces clean copper concentrate that is also high in sulphur content, which is ideal for regional smelting operations, Sobotka tells Mining Weekly, adding that Frontier will play an important role in allowing for the ongoing development of smelting capacity in the region.
“We are currently mining Cut 3 of the Frontier openpit and are evaluating further pushbacks that could add more than ten years to the life-of-mine,” says Sobotka.
ERG’s copper/cobalt refinery, Chambishi Metals, is located near Kitwe, in Zambia.
“The Chambishi refinery is the only operation in the world whose cobalt and copper metal products are both registered on the LME.”
Chambishi Metals is a refinery producing LME-approved copper cathode and cobalt metal with a nominal capacity of 6 800 t/y of cobalt metal and 55 000 t/y of copper metal.
Further, a recent report by the World Economic Forum’s public–private coalition the Global Battery Alliance found that global battery demand is expected to increase 14-fold by 2030, and 19-fold by 2030 if far-reaching collaborative action is taken over the next decade.
This is largely driven by the high growth in the electric vehicle market, which will require unprecedented amounts of cobalt and copper.
“Through Metalkol RTR and other operations, ERG is committed to being a responsible supplier of metals and helping to allow for the global transition to the low-carbon economy,” Sobotka concludes.