Solwezi of Zambia is the capital of the North-Western province of Zambia. The population stands at about 65,000 inhabitants and its growing fast as most people migrate to the “new copperbelt”. The town is at an elevation of 1235 metres above sea-level.
Although Kaonde is the largest tribe (and language) in the area, you will find it has been swamped by migrants from other parts of the country. Solwezi has not been an attraction for most people but with the recent developments, it has started attracting many people.
Solwezi of Zambia is easily found on the main road leading to the north west of Zambia. The town is 180 kilometers from Chingola.
As you enter town, you see shops on both sides of the road. Other important places not found along the main road are indicated on sign posts showing their location away deep into town.
What strikes you about Solwezi of Zambia is that the roads are not named (At the time I visited). For example, the main road from Chingola, which passes through the town centre, though not named is known as Independence road.
There are several fuel stations which make your travel easier, within and when you drive long distances out of the town. When you enter Solwezi town from Chingola, there is 1 BP filling station on your left and on the other side of town as you leave for Mwinilunga there are 2 total filling stations on either side of the Independence road.
The development of this town means more banks coming in the town. Banks found here are Zambia National Commercial Bank, Barclays Bank, NATSAVE, Capital Bank and others.
Solwezi has also attracted other institutions such as ZISC, NEDFIN, Bureau and Insurance houses.
Many people are now attracted to this town, bringing with them various businesses and investments like guest houses, hotels and shops. There is a hive of construction everywhere. Hotels, motels, lodges and guest houses are springing up everywhere. You are assured of one that suites your pocket!
If you are visiting the town for the first time, you may be wondering where you could spend a night or two. In fact there are a number of Solwezi hotels, guesthouses and lodges you can pick from.
Solwezi town has undergone phenomenal development in recent years. It now has three mines and these are Kansanshi, Lumwana and a new mine at Kalumbila, which is some 160 kilometers from Solwezi.
Lumwana Copper mines, was recently opened. The mine is located 65 kilometres west of Solwezi, in the north western province and about 220 kilometres west of the copper belt province. Lumwana copper mines were commissioned in 2008 by Equinox minerals and production was started in December that same year.
It boasts of being one of the largest copper mine in the world. According to Lumwana mine Managing Director, the mine has one of the largest mills in the world, the largest crane in Africa and has the largest trucks in Southern Africa.
Initially, Lumwana copper mines were owned by Equinox Minerals, which was later acquired by Barrick Gold Corporation in 2011.
Extensive deposits of the ore were discovered in the area and the mining company (Equinox Minerals) developed two open pit mines, Malundwe and Chimiwungo. Malundwe is the smaller of the two but it has a higher ore grade than Chimiwungo. Apart from copper, Lumwana copper mines also contain uranium deposits as well as other minerals. The mine is said to have reserves of up to 37 years.
Lumwana mines are in fact an extension of the traditionally copper mining and processing area of the copper belt province.
So, the opening of this mine plays a greater part in the development of Solwezi of Zambia town.
Another mine that will make a big difference to copper mining in Zambia once operational is the Kalumbila mines, also known as Sentinel Mines, in the northwestern province. The mine is to be opened by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) by the end of 2014 and will have the capacity to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper a year.
The project is said to gobble US$2.4 billion until completion. Apart from copper, Kalumbila mines will also be producing nickel as well. Kalumbila mines expect to employ 2,000 people once its in full production by the year 2015.
The development of Solwezi has further been spurred with the reopening of Kansanshi mine. This is the main industry of Solwezi and is located about 14 kilometers out of the town centre. Kansanshi mine began operating in 2005.
The mine is located some 10 kilometres north of Solwezi town and 180 kilometres to the northwest of Chingola town. Kansanshi mine produces about 340,000 tonnes of copper and over 120,000 ounces of gold per year and its estimated mine life is 17 years.
Until recently, most of the mining activities were done on the copper belt province. But the opening up of new mines like the Lumwana copper mines and Kalumbila has changed the norm from the usual custom where copper mining was dominated by the copper belt province.
As a result of the opening of mines, there are huge infrastructure investments such as recreational facilities, and hotels.
Placesof interest in Solwezi include, Kifubwa Stream Rock Shelter, which harbours engravings dating to the late Stone Age, and Mutanda River which boasts some attractive rapids in the Mutanda Falls about 35 kilometers out of Solwezi.
The reason? There are no commercial farms here. People have to travel long distances to bring commodities like vegetables and fruits from Lusaka and Mkushi while fish comes from Luapula province.
Another reason? Miners have no time to negotiate for anything because they have better salaries. They just buy at whatever price!
With these recent developments, especially the opening up of new mines, Solwezi is indeed the “New Copperbelt.”
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It all started as a thought, about making my journey by TAZARA. You see, I have been planning on going to Nakonde by train, the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority – TAZARA.
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