January 24, 2018

Lubambe Copper Mine: ARM’s first foray outside South Africa

  Lubambe 2


Lubambe copper mine is a joint venture between African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) and Vale located in the Greater Konkola area of the Zambian Copperbelt close to the town of Chililabombwe.

The development of the Lubambe copper project (formerly known as the Konkola North copper project) is an underground mining operation, which has added a new commodity to ARM’s portfolio of commodities and is ARM’s first operational interest outside of South Africa.

The mine with a life expectancy estimated at 28 years, is expected to produce 45,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate per annum with first copper extraction achieved in 2013 and full production in 2015.

The extension of the Lubambe copper mine entails the expansion of operations into the area six kilometres south of the current mine, within the allocated large-scale mining license area, along the Konkola basin. The extension is set to increase the production output to 100,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate per annum.

In addition to the Lubambe mine development, the mine extension further included the construction of ancillary buildings on the mine and the refurbishment of the old mine building, the refurbishment of the Winder Building and the construction of a substation buildings, training centre, shift boss building, change room, workshop building, stores offices and general mining offices.

The building structures were constructed in a manner that made the new buildings blend with the existing structures. The materials were sourced locally in order to create a sustainable building enterprise, and Group Five pride themselves in having provided skills transfer to the locals. The company managed to train 114 bricklayers and plasters and in addition tiling, plumbing and electrical skills were provided.

Project Safety and Environmental Responsibility

Lubambe mine has initiated programmes to entrench safety, environmental responsibility and community interaction from the outset. A campaign to drive these programmes was initiated early in 2011 and it is still in progress. The campaign is known as ‘Target Zero…pantu tulusakamana’ – meaning ‘because we care’ in Bemba. It is meant to inculcate a culture of safety and health, within the workforce and the surrounding communities.

The mine’s environmental management programme includes monitoring of dust, noise, diesel emissions, water quality, vibration and illumination. Audits are conducted to establish performance against the requirements of the environment management programme’s targets.

The mine’s corporate social responsibility programme included a resettlement and a Millennium Village Project. Under the resettlement, the company undertook the resettlement of 205 households from an area affected by mining in the new area within the existing Konkola village.


The mine which is originally an extension of the Konkola copper mine that forms part of Anglo American’s interests on the Zambian Copperbelt, was closed when the London-listed mining house withdrew ahead of nationalisation in the 1970s of the copper mining industry.

The development faced a number of challenges, for instance during the refurbishment of the existing main shaft, steel shortage was encountered as a result of a steel workers strike in South Africa. “We have also had to undertake extensive redesigning of the steelwork in order to reconfigure the design in line with accurate measurements of the shaft”, explained Pierre Joubert, Executive, ARM Copper Operations.

“Existing drawings showed that the Shaft was 7m shorter than reality and this necessitated the re-engineering of the steelwork for the entire loading box area”, further explained Joubert.

In addition, the mine development on the East Limb was affected by the ground conditions that comprised a lengthy friable sand zone that required meshing and lacing which was not envisaged and included in the development plan.

The Lubambe mine project commenced construction in April 2011, and was commissioned in 2012 two months ahead of schedule.


There is a possibility of the extension of the project after the completion of a feasibility study to be completed in 2014. The initial drill results indicated an average ore-body width of approximately 11 metres at 2.81 percent total copper and an average depth of 1 100 below surface. All the copper concentrate sale agreements were agreed and signed and the first concentrate was sold during the last quarter of 2012, and thus copper concentrate produced by Lubambe will be sold for smelting and refining within Zambia.

Tramecon provides turnkey laboratory solutions to new mining projects

Established in 2007, Johannesburg-based mining laboratory services provider Tramecon provides turnkey laboratory solutions to new mining projects, including workload determination, staff training, laboratory design commissioning and management.

With a yearly turnover of over R10-million, Tramecon also offers equipment specification services, aids in the acquisition of chemicals and consumables and in the installation and commissioning of equipment.

Founded by Dr Hannelie de Beer, who has a 100% shareholding, the company is currently installing and commissioning a multimillion Rand container laboratory at the DRC’s Kinsenda Copper mine, in the Katanga province. Other Tramecon clients include operations owned by South African mining firm Metorex, diversified miner GlencoreXtrata, mineral development and exploration company Teal Mining and local ferrochrome producer Assmang.

Meanwhile, the company’s newly established subsidiary, Qotho, provides specialist support services to mineral laboratories, including proficiency testing schemes, ISO 17025 implementation assistance, as well as laboratory audits and change and quality management.

Qotho’s most recent work includes proficiency testing on copper, iron, chrome, and manganese minerals. Qotho’s production process involves receiving material from suppliers, preparing the material to ensure homogeneity, testing the material’s homogeneity, packaging and labelling the product and distributing the material to various laboratories, both local and international. Once the test results are returned to Qotho, it prepares and distributes a statistical report, which is then circulated to all laboratories who took part in that particular PT scheme round.

Current participants include, but are not limited to, BHP Billiton Northern Cape, Intertek SA in JHB; Phalaborwa Copper Mine (SA), African Copper Mine (Botswana), Alfred H Knight-Zambia, ARM Dwarsrivier (SA), Zimasco (Zimbabwe), ARM Nkomati Mine (SA), Mutanda Mine (DRC) and Lubambe Copper Mine (Zambia), Assmang, GlencoreXtrata, manganese producer Samancor, and diversified mining major African Rainbow Minerals. Other Qotho clients include analytical, testing & verification laboratories, such as Set Point, SGS, Intertek Genalysis and AH Knight.

The subsidiary’s shareholding is divided among three primary shareholders: Tramecon (34%), company director Nhlanhla Mamba (33%) and a black female chemist operating within the industry (33%).

Qotho is currently working towards an ISO 17043 accreditation, which will recognise the company’s proficiency as a testing scheme services provider.

With a staff complement of 12, Tramecon and Qotho are based at 43 Woodley Road, Cresta, in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

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