By NKOLE MULAMBIA
PROMOTION of policies that support the growth of the industrial base will boost national development and maximise revenue for the country.
University of Zambia (UNZA) senior lecturer in the School of Mines Mathias Mphande said the country is failing to benefit from the copper resource due to lack of industrialisation.
â€œWe can only benefit if only two things are put in place. The economy in which we are operating has to be industrialised. Without an industrialised economy within the country you cannot benefit from mining.
â€œIf you have to benefit from an industry that is as rich and as good as mining – especially copper mining – you have to create capital,â€ he said.
Dr Mphande was speaking at the CNBC Africa debate on Zambian mining under the theme â€œOn the Contributions of Mining to The Zambian Economy and society,â€ in Lusaka yesterday.
Dr Mphande said only eight percent net revenues come from mining industry, while the Democratic Republic of Congo had increased to 19 percent.
â€œWe have to industrialise to get to that level. Zambia is importing raw materials like lime which is available in Ndola from as far as China, India and South Africa. Mining firms are importing water-based floatation chemicals from Taiwan with only one percent active ingredients,â€ he said.
He said Zambia and the DRC have the highest indices of high quality copper and cobalt which are ideal for attracting mobile capital in the sector.
Dr Mphande said there is need to put in place policies that create quality manpower, capital formation which can invest in infrastructure and utilities.
He urged large mining firms such as First Quantum Minerals to set up metal refineries which can cost US$500 million and precious metal plants at US$20 million to benefit the country.
Prominent economist and Premier managing consultant Oliver Saasa called for predictable and consistency regulatory and fiscal regime in the mining sector and urged Government to monitor and record mineral production levels.
And Mines Workers Union of Zambia general secretary Joseph Chewe expressed concern at the poor conditions of service for contract employees.
Similarly, Gilbert Temba from the Association of Mineral Exploration Companies said while Zambiaâ€™s total foreign exchange income from the mining sector had grown significantly, Zambia was the most expensive place in which to do mining business as it is land-locked.
He called for resource value and policy framework which specifically borders on fiscal policies to attract foreign direct investment in the mining sector.
â€œToday DRC is mining more copper due to changing political policy environment,â€ Mr Temba said.
But newly-elected Chamber of Mines of Zambia president Jackson Sikamo said mining firms have attracted FDI worth US$10 billion and created more than 75,000 direct jobs in the mining sector with one percent hired as expatriates since privatisation.
Meanwhile, Bishop John Mambo representing the civil society said mine contribution to economy was minimal and Zambians had not benefited much since the privatisation of the mines.
â€œThere is need to revisit the mine policy in Zambia as there is a lot going on and the country can benefit a lot,â€ he said.
He said the living standard of miners is low compared to other country with a wide salary gap between Zambian graduates and expatriates.
By NKOLE MULAMBIA