Government, private sector dialogue to improve mining

Chris Yaluma, the country’s mining minister has reiterated that chances of the copper industry recording an upward swing are bright.

“Our mining houses have survived a tough three years, and I see a promising, bright outlook,” said Yaluma, opening Zambian International Mining and Energy Conference in Lusaka.

Sharing the same sentiments Vice-President, Inonge Mutukwa Wina, said she would like to see mining’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) go from its current 12% to as much as 40%.

“The mining sector is an important source of revenue for government, and an important source of both direct and indirect employment,” she said.

“It is an indisputable fact that for the foreseeable future, mining will continue to play an important role in Zambia’s economic development.”

However, structural challenges such as power and immigration laws remain a threat to the expected positives.

The power utility company ZESCO maintains that the answer to increased investment in the power sector was higher tariffs, though the industry’s perspective is different.

John Dean, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Commercial Manager suggests that the right approach for the economy is not simply to keep raising tariffs, but rather to ensure that tariffs should be no higher than they need to be.

Dean said the industry was not against paying tariffs that reflect the cost of an efficient, well-managed service.

He said it was therefore important to know what that current cost of service is, and how efficiently and transparently power is generated – particularly when compared to international benchmarks.

Meanwhile the findings of the Cost of Service study expected to be completed next year are to untangle challenges in the power industry.

General Kingsley Chinkuli, FQM Country Manager however said the delays in granting work permits to expatriates with specific high-end skills and experience was another challenge.

“No one will invest in a country where it is not possible to obtain such work permits. If we don’t make these people feel welcome here, we won’t be able to attract the skills we need.”

General Chinkuli also beamoned the long time it takes for government to issue land-titles for investors looking to construct hotels, shops, workshops and other businesses in the North-Western province town of Kalumbila.

 “We have 74 investors lined up waiting to invest more than $100 million. It’s been four years. They are still waiting.”

Steven Din, Chief Executive Officer of Konkola Copper Mines said the country needs a clear strategic development vision to help deliver growth and prosperity.

He said his working experience in West, Central and Southern Africa has taught him three lessons:

“Countries with a clear vision of the direction they are headed in develop the fastest.

No country attains inclusive growth and sustainable development without proper collaboration between a broad range of stakeholders.

And the best way to achieve this collaboration is through a well-articulated development vision,” said Din.

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