Exclusive interview with the Chamber of Mines of Zambia CEO, Mrs Maureen J Dlamini. The President of the Chamber, Mr. Emmanuel Mutati, is a featured speaker during the upcoming CBM-TEC expo in Kitwe in April.
1. Let’s start with some background on the Zambian Chamber of Mines; can you give us some history and the growth of the organization.
The Chamber of Mines in Zambia was originally formed in September 1942 as the Northern Rhodesia Chamber of Mines. It operated until 1965 when the Copper Industry Service Bureau (CISB) replaced it. However, with the nationalisation of the mining industry, the necessity for the Chamber of Mines fell away. The Chamber of Mines was re-established in 2000 after the privatisation of the mining assets were completed.
The Chamber was established for the purposes of promoting the interests of its members, and encouraging, protecting and fostering the Mining Industry of Zambia.
2. Who in Zambia do you represent? Can you give us some idea of what your important position entails?
The Chamber of Mines of Zambia is a representative of all the major operating mines in the country. The main role of the Chamber of Mines of Zambia (CMZ) is advocacy in creating synergies. CMZ aims to influence policy in the mining sector to reflect the vision and dreams of its members as well as to promote economic growth in Zambia.
3. How important an industry is mining in Zambia?
The Mining sector contributes about 80 per cent to Zambia’s foreign exchange earnings. At the time Zambia acquired political independence in 1964 the amount of copper produced by the private mining companies was high and reached a peak of 750,000 tonnes in 1973. To demonstrate the importance of mining now, since completion of the privatization process in the year 2000, the sector has seen new investments which have resulted in copper production rising to almost 700,000 tonnes in 2011 from the lows of 257,000 tonnes in 2000.
Aside from investing in improving operations of the mine, opening up new mines etc, significant investment has been made in CSR projects – health, education, roads rehabilitation, agriculture etc. These projects have assisted communities in alleviating poverty through employment, improving skills and creating opportunities for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs.
4. What do you think are the main challenges?
1. High energy costs – electricity and fuel
2. High transport costs – distance from ports
3. Highly regulated environment – relatively high rate of
4. Mining involves long term investment. It may be years before mining companies can realize a profit and begin to pay meaningful taxes. This may sometimes be perceived negatively by stakeholders
5. So education and correct information dissemination becomes critical when engaging government and other stakeholders
6. Skills shortage is a problem at the moment though industry is trying to come up with training interventions that may improve the quality and quantity of skills
5. What are the reasons that you would give a prospective foreign investor who is interested in investing in Zambia’s mining sector?
Zambia is a key player in the global mining industry and is currently ranked 7th world producer of copper. There is still a huge potential for green fields operations with high grade copper and other minerals available for exploitation.
We are pleased to note that the current government is willing to engage industry and the Chamber in promoting the sector and further enhance its contribution to the economic advancement of the country. The Chamber and the industry have been given the fora to interact with government on various policy related issues.
Zambia is politically stable and has been for the past 49 years and will continue to be so, providing a stable environment for investors both local and foreign to operate in the industry itself is pooling its resources with the Chamber, government and training institutions to come up with skills development programmes to increase and improve the skills base of the sector. In so doing we are providing a pool of resources that the new investors can employ when starting their operations
6. Why did you decide to partner with CBM-TEC?
CBM-TEC carries the theme of Putting Zambia’s Copperbelt on the map – local strategies for creating sustainable world-class mining operations, which tandem with the chambers role of promoting value addition and promotion of local entrepreneur’s in the mining business.
7. What will be your message at the event?
All countries in the world now, appreciate that they need new technology, technical expertise and funds from other countries for them to develop their own economies. CBM-TEC will help to create stakeholders linkages with various players in the country and abroad with a view to establishing productive partnership.
8. What are you most looking forward to at CBM-TEC in April?
Being able to interact with other participants. Share ideas and hopefully help the industry in Zambia create alliances and business partnerships that will benefit and grow the mining sector not just in Zambia but the rest of the continent.
9. Anything you would like to add?
It is worth mentioning that the mining sector since the year 2000 has contributed over US$6 billion of direct investment in the economy in mining projects that includes;
i) Rehabilitation and expansion of existing of processing plants.
ii) Establish of new processing plants and opening of new mines with more planned within the medium term.