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LUSAKA, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Australia’s Equinox Minerals Ltd. (EQN.AX), which owns Zambia’s Lumwana Copper Mine, said on Thursday it plans to produce 170,000 tones of copper metal in concentrate in 2009 after starting production at the mine.

 

Equinox said in a statement production was progressing smoothly after the mine was commissioned late last year.

 

The company said concentrate grade and specifications were both in line with design expectations and off-take agreements.

 

Equinox said concentrate deliveries to off takers started in December and long-term contract deliveries would start this month to the new Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Smelter, with interim deliveries of concentrate going to international metal traders’ facilities under short-term contracts.

 

Equinox also said it was optimistic Zambian authorities would honor a development agreement it signed with the country to maintain lower taxes.

 

Zambia has exempted Lumwana from paying export tax for its concentrate and has also exempted it from import and excise duty on fuel and electricity.

 

Meanwhile, London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc (VED.L) and Singapore’s Nava Bharat Pte Ltd. submitted final offers to operate Zambia’s largest coal mine and to construct a thermal power station, the mine’s owner said on Thursday.

 

Diversified miner Vedanta and Nava Bharat NABVnsc1 have been short listed in October in response to the bid from ZCCM-Investments Holdings (ZCCM-IH), which wholly owns Maamba Collieries Ltd., and were asked to submit their final offers.

 

ZCCM-IH’s Chief Executive William Musama said the two firms had submitted their technical and financial offers and that a preferred bidder would be selected soon.

 

“ZCCM-IH is pleased to announce that the offers have been submitted by Nava Bharat (Singapore) Pte Ltd., and Vedanta Resources Plc,” Musama said in a statement, but gave no details.

 

The submission of offers marks the start of the final process which started in 2007, when ZCCM-IH issued a tender, asking foreign firms to submit bids for the revamping of Maamba Collieries operations and for building a power plant.

 

Maamba Collieries produced about 600,000 tones of coal per year in the 1980s, but has seen production slump to below 100,000 tones in recent times, due to years of undercapitalization and operational losses.

 

The capacity of the thermal electric power station has previously been estimated at 300-350 megawatts.

 

Initially 10 firms submitted bids to develop the power station and to be equity partner in the coal mine. Vedanta is already the majority shareholder in Konkola Copper Mines, Zambia’s largest copper producer.

 

Maamba Collieries has 78 million tones known coal reserves due to last over 70 years while the coal mine has capacity to produce up to one million tones of coal a year, officials say.

 

(Reporting By Shapi Shacinda, Editing by Sue Thomas & Peter Blackburn)

 

 

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