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Secure, traceable mineral supply chains are about to become a requirement for any company involved in the clean energy transition. The United States and the European Union have determined that the concentration of such supply chains in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) represents an unacceptable strategic vulnerability since supplies that pass through, or are otherwise controlled by, the PRC could be weaponized and cut off with little warning. They are now enacting policy measures to force a global decoupling of those supply chains.

 

Western companies that proactively trace and reorient their supply chains will develop a distinct competitive advantage through access to federal funding and reduced supply risk in the coming years.

 

Companies must also consider how they will access enough energy-related minerals in 5-10 years as demand intensifies and Western policies continue to restrict sourcing from PRC-affiliated suppliers. The latter’s aggressive deployment of capital to secure financial interests in mines and refineries around the world may soon leave Western companies with few options. This report will demonstrate how that challenge is playing out in one country, but it is representative of a worldwide phenomenon.

 

These trends have made Zambia one of the key mineral-producing countries in Africa. A long-time copper producer, it also hosts every export route for the massive volumes of copper and cobalt that leave the DRC for African ports. Most regions in Zambia have seen surprisingly little mineral exploration, and it is already clear that it houses significant quantities of untapped copper, manganese, and lithium.

 

Its location, geology, and underdeveloped infrastructure made it one of the top destinations for lending and investment by Chinese state-owned enterprises via the Belt and Road Initiative. The country’s subsequent debt crisis has highlighted that program’s dangers, though Chinese investment and presence in Zambia remains quite strong. Western companies considering operations in the country need to understand how this works at a tactical level.

 

Zambia is now at a turning point as it attempts to encourage Western investment, revamp its legislation, and lift its citizens out of poverty. The administration of President Hichilema seeks to increase copper production by more than two million metric tons per year by the early 2030s.

 

The contents of this report are the result of two months of behind-the-scenes research and one week of field work in Zambia from 1-7 January 2024. The author traveled to Lusaka – the capital of Zambia – and throughout Copperbelt Province, the country’s historically dominant mining region. The report combines the author’s observations, information obtained from dozens of conversations with experts who have spent their careers in Zambia, and open-source information.

 

As such, the report differs from standard market research reports in the sense that it does not attempt to provide a comprehensive, high-level view of the Zambian mining industry using information gathered from databases. Rather, it provides a view into the reality on the ground, as assessed by a former Marine reconnaissance officer and current Harvard MBA candidate.

 

The table of contents is available in the attached image.

Ground Truth in Zambia: Critical Mineral Supply Chains

SKU: 2024-01
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