Uganda seeks investors to revive Kilembe copper mine

Uganda is seeking investors to revive the country’s copper industry. The government has invited expressions of interest to restart Kilembe mine, restart a vast copper mine in the country’s west that also holds significant cobalt deposits.

“We have invited companies to express their interest in partnering with the government through a mineral production sharing agreement. The redevelopment of Kilembe Mines will have a catalytic effect of facilitating industrialization, offer significant employment opportunities and increase revenue,” Uganda’s finance and mining ministers said in a joint statement.

The Kilembe mine, which sits on the foothills of the ice-capped Rwenzori mountains on the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo, is estimated by government geologists to contain about 4 million tonnes of ore that is 1.98% copper and 0.17% cobalt.

Fall of mine

Production at the mine began in 1956 and peaked at 18,000 tonnes of copper cathode annually in the early 1970s before activity was halted later that decade by Canadian firm Falconbridge due to low copper prices and political instability.

The mine has since largely lain abandoned. The Kilembe project, the ministers said in the statement, currently comprises of a greenfield exploration area, a brownfield copper mine, a processing plant, a small hydropower plant and cobalt-rich tailings.

Previous attempts to revive the mine have fallen through, stymied by a downturn in the commodities market and a failed 2013 deal with a Chinese investor, eventually cancelled after years of slow progress and missed targets. But with copper prices hitting all-time highs earlier this year due to supply concerns, investors are looking for new sources of the metal used in electric vehicles.

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