MINES and Mineral Development Minister Richard Musukwa says there is need to invest in alternative economic sectors such as agriculture to avoid copper price shocks on the economy.

And Musukwa says Zambia’s low copper production has been as a result of mining companies’ large-scale construction projects, which had slowed down production.

Speaking in Parliament, Tuesday, Musukwa observed that resources being realised from the mining sector should be invested in the agriculture sector, among others.

“It is good to know that Zambia’s comparative advantage is our mineral endowment so we need to make resources in the mining sector and invest in other sectors, such as agriculture, tourism and construction. And, yes, indeed, government has been working in terms of diversification from copper to various minerals, such as gold, gemstones, manganese, in order to ensure that we promote this diversity so that when there is a shock on (the) international market in terms of copper, we must be able to rely on these various minerals, which we are endowed with,” Musukwa said.

He, however, emphasised the need for a stable mine tax policy to make Zambia more competitive on the global market.

“Yes, indeed, as a government, we need to show consistency in terms of the tax measures and the entire mechanisms and incentives that we give to the mining industry in order to attract investment because mining happens in a global space and you need to be competitive and I’m glad that it is coming from you members of parliament, who need to know that we need to provide long-range in terms of mining tax regime, stability, and also anchored on the provisions of the law in order to guarantee investment. Mining investment requires huge outlay of financial resources and it needs to be seen in terms of the laws and the PF government is actually anchored on those provisions,” Musukwa added.

And he explained that the reduced copper production in recent years could be attributed to large mining companies, such as Mopani and Konkola Copper Mines, who had invested in expansion projects.

“Let me quickly go to the issue of production. Now, it is true that the focus of government is to ensure that our production hits in excess of two million tonnes as a priority in the last couple of years, and it has nothing to do with MMD. The last couple of years, most mining houses, especially the big ones, Mopani Copper Mines were doing construction. In a construction phase, you are not producing at optimal, you are investing in ensuring that you grow production at the level of construction. This is the same, which has been happening at Konkola Copper Mines where they have been exploiting the resource at KDMP project. This is a project that has been behind for four years. This is an investment pledge, which was made by the investor, to develop this resource and has been behind. So, what is expected is that when four key operations that have been at construction stage begin to ramp up, this production will actually double and we are hoping to actually get more than the two million tonnes that has been projected,” said Mususkwa.

Speaking earlier, Kalomo Central UPND member of parliament Harry Kamboni said the country was still not benefiting from its mineral endowment because of poor management.

“Frankly speaking, our country is endowed with a lot of mineral resources and minerals are one of those where the country would really benefit, but look at the main budget now, we are expecting to get only about K5 billion, why? When so much copper is going outside the country and other minerals. The prices for copper have been very good of late, what has been lacking is proper management. We are not, as a country, getting much from these minerals, sometimes it’s even better if we didn’t have them at all because we are supposed to benefit a lot from these Minerals, but we are not. Somebody is talking of a lot of gold being mined, do you see that reflection on the budget? Where is the money?” said Kamboni.

Meanwhile, Msanzala PF member of parliament Peter Daka urged the Ministry to invest in the Inspectorate Department to ensure safety of miners as there were a lot of deaths, especially among artisanal and illegal miners in his constituency.

Zambia remains behind the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as Africa’s second largest copper producer, with an average 850,000 metric tonnes, while the latter boasts an outturn of around 1.5 million tonnes.