MINES and Mineral Resources Minister Richard Musukwa has cautioned mining companies against under-declaring their production, saying doing so is an offence.
And Musukwa has called on the Chamber of Mines to partner with the government, noting that it is not good for the chamber to always have a reason to complain about government policy.
According to official Ministry of Mines data, Zambia’s total copper production last year dropped to an estimated 807,492 tonnes from 898,098 tonnes recorded in 2018, an over 90,000-tonne difference.
The total copper production included all of the country’s 11 large scale mining operations as well as small-scale mining operations, which accounted for at least 23,382 metric tonnes from the total tonnage.
In an interview, Musukwa noted that mines must always do the right thing as they sit on a resource that is meant to benefit the people of Zambia.
“The Chamber of Mines must be a partner, government wants to create a platform and a space in the mining operations where we promote dialogue because Zambia is open for business in the mining sector, we are open to dialogue. We are open to ensuring that the industry thrives and the chamber is a critical partner and what government is doing is to ensure that number one, production grows. By the way, it’s an offence for a mining house that has got a licence and is not operating according to the plan, the mine plan approved. The mine plan which we approve entails the number of resources and how it’s going to be mined,” he said.
“So mine houses do not have a free space where they can just do anything they want, no. We have a mine plan which is approved by the ministry and they must follow. That mine plan acts as a trajectory of production and growth, that’s what we are referring to. If you have given a mine plan to government that this year you are going to produce so much and you are going in the negative, it’s an offence, they must do the correct things because they are sitting on a resource that is supposed to benefit the people of Zambia.”
And the minister said the government and the Chamber of Mines must meet midway as they both have a responsibility to protect the interests of those they represent.
“Now our colleagues the chamber, they need to appreciate that they cannot be all the time the only ones to be talking negativity. The whole year, we have spent arguing because of the sales tax, do you remember? Because we are a government of reason, we removed the sales tax, now they want to look for another reason. They always want to look for a space to point at. This time around, the chamber must encourage their members to produce. If there are red hot areas where there will be need to discuss, they must be in the forefront to say can we discuss the areas,” Musukwa added.
“I know that our colleagues are employed in the Chamber to protect the interests of the mine houses, the chamber is employed to protect the interest of the mine houses and government is employed by the people of Zambia to protect the interests of the people of Zambia, so we must meet midway. Every time, it is us who will be backtracking, no, it is their time to demonstrate that we are partners. In fact, this year, it is the Chamber’s time to demonstrate that they are true partners to government and that they can support the measures, if they have issues, we are open to dialogue and discussions so that we can make the industry thrive.”
He, however, noted that the major challenge that hampered production in 2019 was the breakdown in smelting facilities at KCM and Mopani.
“The challenge that we had in terms of production was related to breakdown in the smelting facilities at KCM and Mopani. These facilities have been worked on hoping that they will increase the processing capacity and we have three different mine entities that we are hoping will be able to ramp up this year and increase this production,” said Musukwa.