Zambia Half-Year Copper Output Fell 4%

Zambia's copper production dropped 4% in the first six months of the year as some miners in Africa's second-largest producer of the industrial metal struggled with operational disruptions, the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development said Wednesday.

January to June production fell to 393,114 metric tons from 407,807 tons produced in the same period last year. The production drop dampens Zambia's prospects of raising copper output above 900,000 tons this year.

Miners operating in the Copperbelt province, which include Konkola Copper Mines and Glencore PLC's Mopani Copper Mines, accounted for around 34% of the country's total output after suffering output losses. A workers' strike affected production at Konkola Copper mines for several days in March, piling more pressure on the assets that have been a subject of an ownership dispute between the government and London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC since 2019.

Global copper prices hit multiyear highs in May as the global economy began to recover from the pandemic hit, but have since been retreating. Zambia, which became Africa's first pandemic-era sovereign defaulter last year, tripled its trade balance to $1.9 billion from January to May, boosted by higher copper prices.

Zambia owes around $12 billion to external creditors, including $3 billion Eurobonds and has been banking on recovering copper production and better prices to rejuvenate its ailing economy, which has been affected by rising food prices and inflation. The copper projection is now unlikely as labor unrest and mine invasions by illegal miners affect production at some mines, industry body Chamber of Mines said.

Last month, Chinese-owned Luanshya Copper Mines said its ability to meet a scheduled production target for the 2021 production year has been affected by illegal diggers in its mines.

Zambia's copper output rose 14% in 2020, reaching nearly 900,000 metric tons.

Write to Nicholas Bariyo at nicholas.bariyo@wsj.com


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  09-15-21 0440ET
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