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By Shapi Shacinda 

LUSAKA, July 17 (Reuters) – Owners of a new copper mine in Zambia plan to invest an initial $60.93 million to produce about 59,000 tonnes of copper concentrate at Mkushi project, a senior company official said on Thursday. 

The Mkushi copper project, a joint venture of African Eagle Resources Plc and CGA Mining Ltd., will initially produce around 36,500 tonnes in the first two years, rising to 59,000 tonnes, company data showed. 

Simon Plunkett, the Mkushi copper project manager, said a feasibility study would be concluded this year and construction of a concentrator and mine development will start in 2009. 

“Construction of a concentrator should be in 2009 and production in 2010 … (the $60.93 million) is the initial investment set-up, but it is an initial figure as there will be additional costs for power,” Plunkett said. 

Preliminary findings of an environmental assessment report submitted to the Environment Council of Zambia showed that the Mkushi mine would produce copper concentrate containing up to 30 percent copper. 

“Pit optimisation studies by CGA engineers indicate an optimum mine life of six years at an ore production rate of 1.6 million tonnes per annum at an average Insitu grade of 1.08 percent tonnes copper,” the report, seen by Reuters, said. 

Mining is planned to be through open pit using bulk blasting with hydraulic excavators and truck extraction, the company’s report said. 

Exploration activities have shown that mineralisation extends beyond an old open pit mine called Mushiwemba, and that it could be possible to produce “mineable resource.” 

Plunkett said the Mkushi mine project would initially employ 270 workers, with additional employment to be provided by other mine contractors that would be engaged to provide goods and service to the mine. 

Industry analysts say some copper mines abandoned decades ago, due to inappropriate and expensive mining methods in mineral-rich Zambia, were being revived following a surge in copper prices and rising demand of the metal. 

Copper mining is Zambia’s economic lifeblood and the vast mines are a major employer in this southern African country of 12 million people. (Reporting By Shapi Shacinda, Lusaka newsroom + 260-977 843 609/260-955 779 523) (Editing by Phumza Macanda) 

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