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Zambia’s total finished copper output will hit 1.2 Mt in 2009, against a previous forecast that said the country would produce 1 Mt in 2011, a senior industry official said.

Tim Henderson, the chief executive officer of Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), said production of copper would rise faster than expected because the life of the vast copper and cobalt mines had risen due to exploration and modern mining technologies.

“Copper Production has increased from 257,000 t in 2000 to over 500,000 t in 2006 (and is) projected to reach 1.2 Mt by 2009,” Henderson said late on Tuesday.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said in April the southern African country was set to double its annual copper output to 1 Mt by 2011 following discovery of new reserves.

Henderson, who was speaking in Livingstone, 480km south of Lusaka at a Zambia economic and business forum, said the southern African country would have to invest in infrastructure such as roads and energy to handle larger volumes of copper.

“Zambia is not the only country working hard to attract FDI (foreign direct investment) in mining… we should therefore not relax. Privatisation has been a great success and boosted the economy through huge investments and job creation,” he added.

Zambia’s state run copper mines were privatised starting in 1998 when Chinese investors purchased the Chambishi Copper mine.

Henderson also said Mopani had in principle agreed to renegotiate development agreements with the government, which plans to raise mineral royalties to 3.0% from 0.6% and corporate tax to 30% from 25%.

“In principle, mining companies are willing to renegotiate the agreements. Any future change in the rate of mineral royalties should be linked to copper prices,” Henderson said.

Mopani, which operates the Nkana mine, Mufurila copper mines and the Mufulira Smelter is the country’s second largest copper producer. MCM is a joint venture of Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and Glencore International AG of Switzerland.

Mwanawasa has been pushing for greater foreign investment, including Chinese, in the country’s copperbelt region in a bid to modernise ageing mines and raise exploration and production.