Government is putting forth a set of new measures to tackle widespread criminality and lawlessness that has plagued the mining sector, primarily due to the actions of the ruling elite and senior security officers. Mines and Minerals Development Minister, Paul Kabuswe announced the commencement of institutional reforms aimed at bolstering the regulation of this vital industry.

Zambia’s mining sector is grappling with significant issues related to crime and lawlessness, causing considerable damage and hindering its potential for growth and national benefit.

Central to the proposed reforms is the establishment of the Minerals Regulation Commission, an independent mining regulator, which according to Kabuswe, will play a crucial role in combatting illegal activities and restoring integrity within the mining sector.

During a media address on Friday, 14th July 2023, Kabuswe emphasised the urgent need for institutional reforms to tackle the prevalent criminality and lawlessness in the mining sector.

He said this measure will help curtail illegal activities, protect the environment, and ensure the rights of workers are respected.

Involvement of high-ranking officials and security personnel

Recent incidents have brought to light historical cases of mining-related crimes in Zambia. One notable occurrence involves Luapula Province Minister Derrick Chilundika, who has been implicated in the illegal mining of sugilite. On 5th July 2023, President Hakainde Hichilema took immediate action by dismissing him from his position. Subsequently, Chilundika, along with 18 others, including senior and junior police officers, businessmen, and Luapula Province ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) party officials, was arrested by the police.

In another case that took place in February 2023, 24 youths affiliated with the UPND faced charges for their invasion of amine in Muombe, Chembe district. The charges leveled against them included criminal trespass, obstruction of a road, malicious damage to property, and assault. Notably, among the accused was Stephen Chikota, the UPND deputy national youth chairman.

Current Status of the Mining Sector

The Minister also provided updates on several significant developments within the country's mining sector. These updates include progress in seeking new investors for Mopani Copper Mine, negotiations with Vedanta Resources regarding the future of Konkola Copper Mines, the suspension and negotiations concerning the Kasenseli Gold Mine, the discovery of sugilite in Luapula Province, and efforts to formalise artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).

Mopani Copper Mine

Mopani is an asset owned by the people of Zambia through ZCCM-IH. After Glencore's departure and the transfer of the asset to ZCCM-IH, the government has actively sought a new investor for Mopani. Non-binding offers were received in April/May, and as of this week, binding offers have been received. The Minister said that the government aims to finalise the deal by July 31, 2023, and will announce the successful bidder after evaluating the offers.

Konkola Copper Mines (KCM)

KCM's shareholding structure consists of 80 percent Vedanta Resources (VR) and 20 percent ZCCM-IH. Following VR's departure in 2019, the provisional liquidator assumed management of KCM. The government decided to re-engage VR as the majority shareholder to invest in the mine and establish mutually agreeable terms and conditions. An update from the minister indicated that negotiations on ten key issues have been ongoing, with only one matter remaining unresolved. The government hopes to reach a resolution "within July," with a strong emphasis on protecting the interests of the Zambian people.

Kasenseli Gold Mine (KGM)

Zambia Gold Company (Zamgold) had its exploration license suspended due to various violations, including illegal mining within the tenement. Minister Kabuswe announced that discussions between the involved parties are progressing, and it is expected that they will conclude by the end of July.

Sugilite - Luapula Province

Sugilite, a recently discovered gemstone in Mansa, has garnered significant interest. While the extent of the resource endowment is still being determined, Kabuswe stated that his ministry is developing a comprehensive strategy for the responsible and sustainable exploration and exploitation of this precious mineral.

Main Photo: Supplied