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Let’s protect our mainstay

COPPER mining has for a long time been the mainstay of Zambia’s economy.
It has been the golden goose which has been laying golden eggs to run the wheels of Zambia’s economy because it has created thousands of jobs while bringing in the much-needed foreign exchange.
Although copper is the main mineral dug from our earth, there are several other minerals all over Zambia, some of which are still being mined at artisanal level.
However, the relationship between the mines and successive governments has not always been rosy.
Government has adopted an open-door policy and is always willing to listen to concerns by all players in the mining sector because it aims for a win-win situation.
But while Government is willing to listen, some players in the mining sector appear to be focused more on quickly recovering their investments by maximising profits.
There has been concern about the apparent lack of transparency by some mines on production figures which would determine what is due to Zambia’s coffers.
Thousands of tonnes of minerals are being shipped out of Zambia every day but it is contended that what the country gains are unreasonable as most mines are run on advances with multi-national banks.
This has not helped matters and that is why the country is not benefitting fully from its mineral endowment.
It is this lack of transparency which has compelled Government to take a firm stance against mining companies.
Government is now challenging mining companies to be transparent in their operations to enable it formulate predictable policies.
Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said mining companies should provide accurate information on their production and export figures as this is cardinal in Government’s quest to formulate predictable policies and implement measurable programmes and targets.
Mr Mutati said this in Kitwe on Saturday when he held a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and representatives of some mining companies.
Mr Mutati told the meeting that transparency is cardinal and challenged the members to put figures on top of the table. In other words, no under-table figures.
Mr Mutati is right. There is no need for two parallel books. There should be only one balance sheet for the Zambian people and it must be one that has the correct figures.
Gone should be the days when Government received multiple figures from mining companies because this makes it difficult to access their financial performance and this tended to distort the fiscal outlook.
It also made Government’s planning difficult because earnings from the mining sector were unpredictable.
We are glad that Mr Mutati was forthright with the Chamber of Mines and representatives of the mining firms.
The Chamber and mining firms should also be glad that despite Mr Mutati expressing Government’s disappointment, it will take a collaborative stance with the mining sector to ensure a stable and predictable policy environment.
Stability and predictability in the sector and policies will drive the long-term positive outlook.