Zambia Eyes Bigger Role in Running Copper Mines

Zambia Eyes Bigger Role in Running Copper Mines

By Nicholas Bariyo

Zambia’s government aims for more of its copper and cobalt mines to be run by indigenous people and locally-owned companies, President Edgar Lungu said Friday.

Over the years, Zambia, Africa’s second copper and cobalt producer has developed the capacity to run its mining industry in an “effective and efficient manner”, Mr. Lungu said during a tour of Vedanta Resources’ unit in Zambia’s Copperbelt province.

Zambia’s state miner, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investments Holdings has been in a protracted dispute with Vedanta over the mining licenses of Konkola Copper Mines on the Copperbelt. In 2019, the Zambian government handed over the control of the mine assets to a liquidator and has been battling the miner in court.

Copper ore production at the unit has since increased to some 1.7 million tons a year, from 1 million tons, illustrating the “competence” of the mine’s operations, Mr. Lungu said.

“We want to change the mining sector, we have the capacity and skills to run the mines,” Mr. Lungu said. “The price of copper is going up, so let us work hard,”

Zambia, which became Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign defaulter last year is seeking greater control of its lucrative mining industry amid faltering efforts to curb a spiraling $12 billion foreign debt.

The state miner is also in talks with Swiss commodity giant, Glencore PLC to acquire a majority stake in the company’s local mines after the government turned down a proposal to shutter the mines due to the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Write to Nicholas Bariyo at; @Nicholasbariyo

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