Zambian copper miner Mopani has revealed its annual financial statements, posting a loss of $298m (K5.26bn). This is an increase of $223.8m on the previous year’s $74.2m loss at the state-owned mine.

This came as copper production dipped to 72,694 tonnes (t) over the year, down from 87,618t the year before. Mopani explained: “The lower production levels recorded in 2022 came on account of the smelter shutting down for 45 days, from August to September 2022.” The smelter is located at Mufulira, one of Mopani’s two sites in Zambia’s copper belt.

The report continues: “This shutdown was necessitated by maintenance, refurbishment of critical components, and replacement of refractory bricks.”

The report comes as the Zambian government is in the process of selecting a buyer for the beleaguered miner. Four companies have been shortlisted, including South African miner Sibanye-Stillwater. Rothschild & Co bank, which is managing the mine’s sale, shortlisted the four with a final selection set to be announced before the end of July. The bank was hired to facilitate the mine’s sale in 2022, just over a year after it was initially sold to state-run copper company ZCCM by Swiss giant Glencore for $1.5bn.

While Zambia is among Africa’s largest copper producers, copper production has declined year-on-year since 2020. In 2020, 869,060t of copper were produced, dropping to 800,700t in 2021 and 796,230t in 2022.

The Zambian Government aims to increase copper production in the country to three million tonnes per year by 2032.

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The government will hope to be aided by expansions to Mopani’s operations, which would allow the company to produce 200,000 more tonnes of copper per year from 2027. However, Mopani said in the statement it needs to secure more than $300m in funding in order to complete the expansion project within the projected three years, as well as $150m to simply sustain capital over that period.