Ambassador Michael Gonzales’ Remarks
Visit to KoBold Metals’ Mingomba Exploration Site
July 6, 2023
Thank you all for having me and thank you to our hosts KoBold Metals for inviting us here today. I’d also like to thank Presidential Special Assistant Jito Kayumba for joining us here today.
Six months after the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December 2022, my first visit to KoBold’s Mingomba project is a reminder that the United States—not only the U.S. government, but the American private sector—is delivering on our commitments, our commitments to the people of Zambia.
During the Summit, President Biden announced that the U.S. government plans to invest $55 billion over the next three years across the African continent. The Summit demonstrated our renewed commitment to partnerships between the United States and Africa: between countries, between institutions, and among our people. We remain focused not on what we will do for Zambia as a donor, but what we will do with Zambia as a partner invested in Zambia’s success. Because, we are investing in Zambia as we deepen and expand our partnership.
KoBold Metals is a prime example of this, having announced its investment here in Mingomba at the Summit. That was an initial investment of $150 million with the expectation that that number will increase significantly. KoBold’s investment is the perfect example of the United States’ efforts to catalyze investments in strategic, critical-minerals projects to build more transparent, predictable, secure, and sustainable critical-mineral supply chains that will drive the energy transition and the sustainable, climate-smart economy of the 21st century.
While KoBold Metals is just getting started here in Mingomba, I’ve already seen first-hand here today the steps it is taking to develop a partnership for the long term. I am pleased to see KoBold’s efforts to work with the local communities here to meet the Zambian government’s vision of creating Zambian jobs, using Zambian know-how, while developing additional skills that will create further prosperity here in the Copperbelt. What makes U.S. investment and business partnerships unique is our commitment to promoting a “race to the top.” By prioritizing transparency, community welfare, and environmental protection for those affected by potential projects and including them in the decision-making process, American investment focuses not on cutting every corner to achieve the lowest cost at any cost, but rather to realize the greatest value – value for the community and for the economy, as well as for the companies involved.
The U.S. commitment Africa through this transparent and high-standards approach has led to other exciting announcements in our neighborhood as well.
For instance, just six weeks ago, President Biden announced at the G7 Summit a planned U.S. government investment of an initial $250 million – or 4.7 billion Zambian kwacha – in developing the Lobito Corridor, to connect the DRC and Zambia with global markets through Angola. This investment will support a rail expansion across Angola that has the potential to become the primary open-access transportation infrastructure connecting the three countries, catalyzing greater trade and investment by linking the region to global markets via lower costs, fewer delays, and greater security than existing transportation options today. This expansion will mean more economic and employment opportunities for the Zambian people by further realizing President Hichilema’s vision of Zambia as a land-linked country.
Beyond this, the Government of Zambia and the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation continue to scope and develop a second MCC Compact. This Compact – a grant likely to be valued at several hundred million dollars – will further foster greater trade and Zambian employment through infrastructure investments to support the agricultural sector, market linkages, and cross-border connectivity across economic sectors.
Of course, Zambia’s mining industry has long been a centerpiece of the Zambian economy, and still has incredible untapped potential. In addition to investments like the Lobito Corridor and KoBold’s project here in Mingomba, the United States believes that recent agreements, such as the Commercial MOU signed between our countries in April and the U.S.-DRC-Zambia tripartite MOU to develop an electric vehicle battery value chain, are critical to encouraging further private sector investment. President Hichilema has repeatedly said that Zambia should use its natural resource endowment and geography to its advantage. Continued private sector investment and a business enabling environment that encourages it, are needed to help the sector achieve President Hichilema’s goal of significantly increasing copper production.
But, let me be clear… The United States believes in President Hichilema’s vision. The United States believes in Zambia’s potential. And, the United States is investing to seize this moment to partner with Zambians to turn the country’s long-latent potential into an economic reality.
President Hichilema has set an ambitious target to increase copper production and, as you can see today, the United States will be a major contributor toward that. KoBold Metals will be a major contributor toward that. But, let me be clear, American businesses like KoBold Metals are different…and these are notable differences. American businesses are not like those who come in paying off officials, offering bloated debt financing shrouded in secrecy with more than a little “ka something,” employing mostly their own while exploiting Zambian workers, damaging the environment, and under-declaring yields to avoid taxes that would benefit the Zambian people. Unlike these others, American investment is transparent, is accountable, it benefits both of our countries, and it will help unleash Zambia’s great potential.
KoBold Metals is a fantastic example of this. Within days of approval of its investments, KoBold went into action. And, today, barely six months later, more than $150 million have been invested, more than 200 Zambian workers are employed, tens of thousands of meters have been drilled, and KoBold has hired the first ever Zambian woman to lead a major mining operation. KoBold Metals demonstrates every day its seriousness. KoBold Metals demonstrates that the purpose of American investment is not to extract, but to expand. Whereas others deplete, KoBold shows that American investment develops. And, in contrast to certain silver-tongued predators, KoBold and America’s actions demonstrate time and again our commitment as partners.
I want my visit here today to be a reminder that the United States is committed to maintaining and strengthening that partnership with Zambia. We are excited to work with Zambia to help foster enabling conditions that will attract yet even more private sector investment, like KoBold’s, to create economic prosperity and jobs for local communities, while respecting Zambia’s natural environment and honoring the rule of law.
Indeed, Zambia’s future is bright and, as partners who have invested billions of dollars over decades toward Zambia’s success, America is honored and committed to promote and magnify Zambia’s light.
Thank you for your hospitality.