Zambia to build $548 million cement plant

LUSAKA, July 7 (Reuters) - Zambia will build a $548 million cement plant in a joint venture between the nation’s mining investment arm and China’s Sinoconst, President Edgar Lungu said on Friday, as it aims to diversify the economy to reduce reliance on copper mining.

Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) and Sinoconst will raise financing for the project from local and international financial institutions, Lungu said.

Zambia’s is Africa’s No.2 copper producer and the industrial metal is the main foreign exchange earner and a key employer.

But the southern African nation has been trying to diversify away from mining to insulate itself from commodity price shocks by investing in other areas including agriculture.

Lungu said the plant - to be built in Ndola in Zambia’s copperbelt, about 400 km north of Lusaka - would be completed in three years and create roughly 1,000 jobs at construction stage.

“The copperbelt being a largely mining province and with the cyclical nature of this industry that has affected job security, I believe this project could not have come at a better time,” he said.

The plant will have a daily output of 5,000 tonnes of cement and will also have two 20 megawatt (MW) coal fired power plants to provide electricity to the facility, Lungu said. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Potter)