/ 7 January 2009

Zambia to nationalise ailing foreign-owned mines

Zambian President Rupiah Banda has announced plans to nationalise foreign-owned copper mines that have closed down because of the global recession and the fall in copper prices, state radio reported on Wednesday.

Officials from the Ministry of Mines were discussing the timeframe for the nationalisation of the mines in Copperbelt province, Banda said.

Mines with vibrant operations would not be nationalised, he said.

Zambia, Africa’s largest copper producer, is facing economic uncertainty in the wake of a sharp drop in copper and cobalt prices.

Copper mining is the mainstay of the economy and accounts for about 80% of the countries export earnings.

The situation has forced some foreign firms to close down mining operations in the southern African country and retrench thousands of workers.

Among the mines closed are Bwana Mkubwa mine in Ndola, which is owned by First Quantum Mining and Operations Limited (FQMO) a unit of Toronto-listed First Quantum Minerals Limited, and Luanshya Copper Mines (LCM), a joint venture of the Swiss-based International Mineral Resources and Bein Stein Group Resources of Israel.

LCM has also shut Chambishi cobalt smelter and suspended its new $354-million Mulyashi mine project, both on the Copperbelt.

The firms claim that copper mining is no longer profitable and have said operations would restart only if the price of copper rises. – Sapa-dpa