Like a sports team, the Mopani copper mine, in Kitwe, Zambia, is near the bottom of the league and needs to improve its ranking to avoid relegation or closure,” says diversified mining major Glencore’s Mopani copper mine CEO Johan Jansen, using a football analogy to explain where the company is in the worldwide league of costs.
The mine has been in operation since 1931 and has already produced a “substantial amount” of copper during its lifetime, which has caused a decline in its existing reserves. The mine, therefore, has to dig deeper underground to find more copper. This increases its production costs, which is one of the main reasons why Mopani is considered a high-cost copper mine by world standards.
With parent company Glencore’s commitment and financial support, Jansen wants to turn Mopani into a world-class mining company by 2023. Glencore has already invested about $3-billion in Mopani since its privatisation in 2000. The current modernisation programme will take the total investment to about $4-billion.
Sketching the broad outline of the programme, Jansen emphasises that the mine has to achieve operational excellence.
“We must manage our orebody better and improve efficiency. We must improve safety and reduce accidents. “To secure our future, we have to double our copper output over the next five years and nearly halve our costs by using better technology and increasing skilled manpower.”
These are bold objectives and call for a root-and-branch change across every single area of operation, including in head office, on the ground and underground. Mopani has assembled a top-level strategic team of specialists in key aspects of mining in order to turn vision into reality.
Practically, how will the company achieve the staggering gains in productivity required to reach its objectives? Jansen answers that this will be achieved through new infrastructure (three new shafts), new equipment and new machinery, increased mechanisation and automation, as well as improved systems, processes and workflow.
All this will not be possible without highly skilled workers and Mopani has built a $20-million training centre where workers have access to some of the best teaching methods and equipment in the world.