The two-day Zambia Mining and Energy Conference opened in Lusaka, today, with Vice President Guy Scott reiterating the need for the Southern African state to review its total dependence on copper as the main source of revenue for economic growth.
Scott noted that while Zambia cannot give up copper, gold and mining of other minerals, there is need for the country to diversify to develop the economy as mining copper was a wasting asset that cannot sustain the economy for long in view of the external shocks.
“I’m not saying we should do away with copper, gold or mining of other minerals……we should look at economic growth in the long term and the best way is to diversify into other sectors” he told more than 400 delegates drawn from Zambia and outside the country.
Scott noted that the recent external shocks on the copper prices on the international metal market had diverse effects on the exchange rates being affected, hence the loss in value of the local currency, the kwacha, which lost by over 24 percent since last year.
On job creation, Scott noted that the increased population in Zambia has not assisted much in absorbing the majority of Zambians in securing jobs as espoused by the Government during its post-election campaigns and urged the mining companies to do more to facilitate jobs for many nationals.
Meanwhile Scott described the recent revelations by KCM chief Anil Agarwal that his company has since investing in Zambia been realizing over US%500 million in profits as ‘annoying’ and that mining companies operating in Zambia should desist from such sentiments as mining is serious business in the African state-continent’s largest copper producer.
Earlier Mines energy and water development minister Christopher Yaluma lauded mining companies for their unwavering contributions to communities where they operate through corporate social responsibility but that there is need for mining companies to consult the local people on projects they urgently need, if their efforts are to be appreciated and maximized to develop the social sector and well being of the people.
He reiterated Zambia’s resolve not to nationalize the mining companies but that the private sector will remain a key partner in economic development. He stated that efforts have reached advanced stage to review the mining and minerals act 2008 to make it in accordance with international mining standards which will further foster increased exploration of minerals.
Yaluma added that Zambia’s economic growth demands more energy hence the government is undertaking various initiatives to up rate energy generation and is seeking to raise it to 4,000 megawatts from the endowed 6,000 megawatts the country has to meet the increased consumption.
The Government is making efforts to maximize the power sharing with Zambia’s neighbours including Kenya to ensure availability, not only for the mines but the increasing domestic and industrial demand through construction and rehabilitating of existing hydro power plants in the country.
Recently, Yaluma said it was Zambia’s desire to raise the power generation for the country to 39 percent through rehabilitation and construction of various energy plants, including Batoka power plant, which when completed in 2018 will generate 1,800 megawatts as well as the Kafue Gorge Lower, which will contribute about 1,700 megawatts.
Chamber of mines of Zambia president Emmanuel Mutati reiterated the miming companies desire to raise copper output to 1.5 million tons per annum in two to three years but has called for a resolve to some of the legislative and policy impediments which might affect their vision.
Mutati added the privatization of the mines in the late 1990s has helped the country develop in the mining sector with the investment of over US$8 billion which has been ploughed into developing new projects at various mines.
And ZIMEC organizing committee spokesperson, Barbora Kuckova said the organization was pleased with the response from the delegates and urged the public to visit the exhibition stands on Wednesday, 25 to acquaint themselves with the happenings at the two-day event.
This year’s event is being held under the theme: “Securing Zambia’s growth by ensuring the sustainable development of its mineral and energy resources”. Over 300 delegates and exhibitors are attending.