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First Quantum to power Zambia copper mines with wind, solar

First Quantum Minerals plans to power its copper mines in Zambia through a $500-million solar and wind energy installation funded by a TotalEnergies-backed company and Chariot.

Electricity shortages have, in the past decade, hurt mining operations in the southern African nation that relies almost completely on hydropower. The project is also a shift for Vancouver-based First Quantum that had planned on investing in a 300-MW coal-power project in neighboring Botswana to supply the Zambian mines.

A 230-MW solar plant and 200-MW wind farm will be built to supply the Kansanshi and Sentinel mines, which collectively produced 434 847 metric tons of copper last year, more than half of Zambia’s total output, First Quantum said in an emailed statement Monday. Total Eren, almost 30% owned by TotalEnergies, and Chariot Transitional Power, a unit of London-listed Chariot, will fund, build and operate the project. Construction is expected to start next year, and the project is still in its ealy stages, First Quantum said.

Zambia is Africa’s second-biggest copper producer and is seeking to expand production by enticing more investment and repairing relations with mining companies that were fraught under a previous government.

Drought has led to severe electricity shortages from Zambia’s 3,000-megawatt power grid. While the government has tried to mitigate the impact on the mining industry — the nation’s main source of foreign exchange earnings — it has at times asked operators to cut their use. Mining companies have also clashed with authorities over electricity tariffs in recent years.

First Quantum’s installation will be among the biggest wind and solar plants in Africa.

The solar energy will be produced during the day and wind generation mainly at night, with the project producing at peak capacity during Zambia’s dry season when the country is most exposed to droughts, Fabienne Demol, Total Eren’s global head of business development, said in the statement. – (Bloomberg)

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