The Lumwana Copper Mine is located in the North-Western Province of Zambia. (Credit: -Rita-👩‍🍳 und 📷 mit ❤/ Pixabay)
The Lumwana Project includes Malundwe and Chimiwungo deposits that are located 7 km apart. (Credit: Steven Harolds/Pixabay)
Lumwana is regarded as one of the largest copper reserves in the world. (Credit: John Mortimore/ Wikipedia)

The Lumwana Copper Mine is located in the North-Western Province of Zambia in one the most prospective copper regions in the world.

Besides copper, the property also contains uranium deposits.

The project was commissioned in December 2008 and commercial copper production began in April 2009.

Barrick Gold gained full ownership of the Lumwana mine by acquiring Equinox Minerals in July 2011.

The project has a capacity to mine 260,000 tonnes per day using open pit mining operations and process 68,000 tonnes per day.

According to the 2014 technical report, the expected mine life for Lumwana is approximately 24 years to 2038. Between 2014 and 2038, the copper project is expected to produce 537 million tonnes of ore grading 0.56% Cu.

Since 2019, after Barrick assumed operations, Lumwana has contributed nearly $3bn to the Zambian economy via taxes, royalties, salaries and the procurement of goods and services.

Location Details

Lumwana Mine is situated around 100km west of Solwezi in Zambia’s Copperbelt, approximately 400km northwest of the capital of Lusaka.

The Lumwana Retention Licence RL-01 covers an area of approximately 1,265 km2.

The project includes the two major copper deposits of Malundwe and Chimiwungo along with several exploration prospects contained within the licence area.

Lumwana Mine Geology and Mineralisation

The two deposits, Malundwe and Chimiwungo are located 7km away from each other.

The deposits are hosted within the Mwombezhi Dome, which is a northeast-trending basement dome in the western arm of the Lufilian Arc thrust fold belt.

As a major tectonic province, the Lufilian Arc features broadly north-directed thrust structures and antiformal basement inliers or domes surrounded by Katangan metasediments.

At Malundwe and Chimiwungo, copper mineralisation occurs almost entirely within high grade metamorphosed, intensely mylonitised, recrystallized muscovite–phlogopite–quartz–kyanite schists with disseminated sulphides.

The disseminated sulphides are dominated by chalcopyrite and bornite with a small amount of the resource classified as oxide.

Lumwana Project Reserves

According to the 2014 technical report, Lumwana’s Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources total 486.6Mt grading 0.50% copper (Cu) containing 5,375.6 million pounds Cu.

Inferred Mineral Resources stand at 0.5Mt grading 0.57% Cu containing 5.8 million pounds Cu.

Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves total 538.8 million tonnes grading 0.56% Cu containing 6,619.82 million pounds Cu.

Mining and Ore Processing

Lumwana mine is mined via a conventional open pit operation, while the copper ore is processed at the Lumwana concentrator.

In 2008, operations commenced by mining Malundwe. Chimiwungo, which contains 93% of the remaining reserves, comprises three separate pits- South, Main and East.

The mining operations include recovering sulphide copper ore via a method that includes grade control drilling, blasthole drilling and blasting followed by loading and hauling of the material.

Ore from the project is treated through a conventional sulphide flotation plant to produce copper concentrate.

The concentrator of the project has a capacity of 25 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), approximately 68,000 tpd.

The project includes two similar crushing circuits at Malundwe and Chimiwungo South.

The run-of-mine (ROM) pad is utilised to dump ore into the crusher feed hopper. The ore is crushed from a top size of 1,500mm to less than 200mm. Oversize material is further crushed by a mobile rock breaker.

The flotation plant includes two parallel trains of rougher/scavenger cells. The rougher concentrate is sent to the regrind circuit to further liberate the copper minerals.

After regrinding, the concentrate is cleaned in a conventional cleaner circuit to get the final concentrate grade.

The concentrate then undergoes dewatering to produce a filter cake suitable for transportation. It is then stored and eventually loaded onto trucks and transported to Zambian Copper Belt market for smelting and refining.

Lumwana Project Infrastructure

The project receives high voltage 330kV for operations from the Zambia Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) National Grid.

Key Lumwana project infrastructure includes roads, mine workings, a processing plant, equipment repair facilities, fuel storage, water supply, a tailings storage facility, and a town site for employees.

Contractors Involved

George Orr and Associates (Orr) carried out geotechnical assessments and recommendations for the Lumwana project from 2005 to 2011. The scope of work included preliminary observations and design recommendations based on geotechnical testing and site inspections of actual ground conditions after the mine opened.

Ausenco was engaged to perform a feasibility study on the evaluation of the use of uranium resources that are found at the site.

Engineering company Golder Associates carried out geoscientific, environmental, and tailings dam studies. The company also completed the Mineral Resource estimation of the Chimiwungo North deposit, while Knight Piésold was responsible for the tailings and water management.

In November 2011, Enikon was contracted for the design, supply and installation of tanks, steel structure and plate work and installation of piping, primary crusher and mechanical equipment related to an extension of the copper project.

Heavy equipment manufacturer SANY provided excavators for the project.

Lumwana Project Expansion

In October 2023, Barrick announced that it would invest almost $2bn in an expansion project to increase Lumwana mine’s annual production.

The plan will boost production to an estimated 240,000 tonnes of copper from a 50 million tonnes per annum process plant over a 36-year life of mine.

A full feasibility study on the expansion is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024, and the expanded process plant production is expected to commence in 2028.