SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
ZAMBIA has a long history of mining and a large known resource base of copper, emeralds, and other mineral deposits. The country also has very good potential for further discoveries.
The sector is also a significant source of government revenue and formal employment, both directly and indirectly.
The mining sector has for a long time been shaping and positively affecting the economy directly and indirectly. This is because it creates employment and opportunities for economic growth and diversification.
Zambia is highly-dependent on revenue from copper mining and any fluctuations in the price of the red metal on the international market, reflect and impact negatively on the economy.
In short, the economy of Zambia is mostly driven by global trends in copper prices.
Therefore, the country’s quick recovery from the effects of the global economic crisis is mainly attributed to an upward shift in the global prices of the commodity.
Sadly, the mining sector has not been fully explored as there is an over-dependence on copper yet the country is endowed with other minerals that can fetch good money on the international market such as tin ore in Southern Province.
Currently, the price of tin on the global market is at over US$20,000 per tonne compared to copper which is fetching about US$6,500 a tonne.
Many are times when copper prices have fallen on the international market causing instability in the country’s economy yet there are other minerals that can be explored such as tin.
Failure to diversify away from copper to other minerals such as tin causes concern as to why other minerals are not bringing as much benefit as they should to the Zambian economy.
It is from this background that two mining firms, Daled Mining Limited and Folklands Mining Limited have set up mining and exploration companies in Chilobe area of Zimba district to improve economic activities in the district.
Daled Mining Limited operations director Edward Simukonda said the US$5 million mine will translate into thousands of jobs for the locals and surrounding districts of Southern Province.
Commenting on the project, Folklands Mining Limited managing director Ophreal Muchiso said the US$200,000 mine is expected to contribute to the country’s economic growth as it will spur economic activities in Zimba district.
The two mining projects are expected to generate foreign exchange for the country owing to the current high prices of tin on the international market.
As a social corporate responsibility, the mining firms will also address some of the challenges that communities face such as sanitation and water supply among others.
And Zimba district administration officer Sekani Tembo said Government will ensure that they work with investors with good motive of reducing poverty in the country.
“Government is looking for partners to help develop the country and only serious investors will be supported,” he said.
Mr Tembo urged the investors to devise an annual implementation plan to demonstrate projects being undertaken in a particular year.
He urged the mining firm to employ 75 percent of local residents to address the unemployment levels in the district.
“We only want you to get experts from outside the district but the rest should be local residents so that they benefit from the investment,” Mr Tembo said.
It is evident that continuous investment in the mining sector is crucial to the country’s growth hence the need to transform natural resource wealth in Zimba district and the country as a whole into sustainable economic growth and development.
This will entail that Zambia’s abundance in minerals will be exploited into wealth for the benefit of the people.
There is need to identify areas of improvement to harness mineral wealth for the benefit of all Zambians including future generations through exploiting other high price fetching minerals such as tin.