Zambia's Lumwana Mining Co. Ltd. (LMC) aims to start producing its first copper concentrates by the end of July despite the power problems being experienced in Zambia, a senior company official said on Sunday.

LMC chief operating officer Harry Michael said in an interview the commissioning phases of the mine were progressing as scheduled despite Zambia's power problems as they did not consume as much power as actual production.

We are using relatively small amounts of power for commissioning and we are hoping that by late July we will start producing our first copper concentrates, Michael told Reuters.

He said Lumwana, which would be Africa's largest copper mine, would produce 169,000 tonnes of copper concentrate annually during the first five years of mining.

Zambia's Copperbelt Energy Corp. (CEC), which supplies power to the country's copper and cobalt mines, has cut back supply following disruptions in electricity imports.

The country, like others in southern Africa, has been hit by a power shortage and has been rationing electricity to the mining industry -- the country's economic lifeblood -- since January.

CEC managing director Neil Croucher said a generating machine that was switched off at Zambia's hydro electric Kariba North Bank power station was turned on Saturday but another generator had been switched off at Kafue Gorge power station.

We are currently getting only 40 megawatts from the (Democratic Republic of Congo) DRC instead of about 140 megawatts. The 180-megawatt Kariba North Bank machine came back on Saturday but Zesco said they need to check another 90 megawatt machine at Kafue Gorge, he said.

The CEC had to cut back its normal supply of 530 mega watts by about 15 percent. (Editing by Muchena Zigomo and David Cowell)

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