We know for a fact that the country has a large known resource base of not only copper but emeralds and other deposits. And in case you are not aware, Zambia’s emeralds are highly regarded and are part of the beryl family of precious stones. Our country is not one of the three largest producers of the beautiful deep green gemstone, together with Colombia and Brazil.
What we for sure know is that there is potential for further discoveries for our copper, cobalt, emeralds and other minerals.
For all this mining going on, the industry accounts for around 12 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and about 70 per cent of the total export value. The mining sector equally provides a huge source of government revenue and formal job. This is a sector whose foreign direct investment is over 60 per cent, therefore, attracting credible investors for the industry is very critical for the government and a country as a whole. It is for this reason that the current government has decided to put its foot down and demand a fair share of the country’s mineral wealth by emphasizing proper operations in these mines where it holds 20 per cent shares through the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, reasonable re-investments to augment the mine life and payment of reasonable taxes on production.
So far, the World Bank is piloting the Mining Investment and Governance Review (MInGov) in Zambia as a platform for collecting and sharing information on mining sector governance, its attractiveness to investors, and how it contributes to national development. This review will rely on data collected locally through interviews and desktop research to asses the industry’s performance and identify gaps between declared and actual government policy and practice.
Having such a project going on therefore puts the government on the spotlight in terms its policies and implementation. We know for a fact that the mining industry and those in control of it (foreign mining conglomerates) have many times arm-twisted the government and gotten away with some undesirable conduct such that the owners of these resources have nothing to show for the mineral wealth. An example would be the Konkola Copper Mines case involving majority shareholder Vedanta Resources that is now fighting for the mine’s ownership after the government decided to call off the partnership because of alleged abrogations of the agreement on the part of the investor. What has been noted, even by the World Bank, is the lack of transparency and accountability in the mining sector, which the government has equally acknowledged through mines permanent secretary Paul Chanda.
This is the basis upon which President Edgar Lungu and chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya have emphasized that what is being done in the mining industry is for the benefit of the people of Zambia, the workers and the investors themselves. What this country needs from the mining industry is a win-win situation that will leave us with something to show for our vast mineral wealth. It is ironic that Zambia continues to be so poor yet it’s very rich in mineral wealth. A complete overhaul of these mining agreements would best sort out the current problem and put the people first before anything else.