ZAMBIA – As if gold and copper producers aren't having a difficult enough time of things these days, local power utility Zesco is limiting electricity deliveries to its customers, notably to Barrick Gold and First Quantum Minerals.
Zesco says the cuts are necessary because drought has lowered the water levels at its hydro-electric plants in the northwest part of the country. The utility says it has agreed to buy power from independent producers, and it hopes to increase the supply by the end of this year.
The move will effectively cut output at a time when the companies can little afford increased unit production costs.
Toronto-based First Quantum operates the Kansanshi copper mine, mill and smelter. Power there was reduced to 117 MW from the normal 153 MW. The company is also working on the Sentinel copper project where power was cut to 42 MW from 55 MW. The change has cut copper output and slowed development.
Barrick's Lumwana copper mine is similarly effected. Barrick and the Zambian government have recently argued about rising and unreasonable royalty rates on copper, with Barrick threatening to close the mine. The recent power cuts may just tip the project over the line into unprofitability.
Please see First-Quantum.com and Barrick.com for more information.