REVERSAL ON 7.5% DUTY ON IMPORTATION OF COPPER CONCENTRATES IS EVIDENCE OF GOVERNMENT’S LACK OF CAPABLE AND VISIONARY LEADERSHIP IN MINERAL RESOURCES EXPLOITATION
Today, Wednesday, 21 December, 2016 the PF Government decided to reverse the 7.5% duty on importation of copper concentrates proposed in the budget for 2017. The reversal is clear evidence of lack of capable and visionary national leadership in Government keen to promote a new integrated development approach to mineral resources exploitation. If Government had an efficient administration in mineral resources exploitation, and sound national governance framework and practices, as well as coherent state strategies across key linkages in the Ministries of Mining, Trade and Industry, and Finance, the proposed import duty would not have been contemplated in the first place.
Our copper ore reserves are depleting very fast. Underground mining operations are becoming very expensive to operate, especially with escalating energy costs, coupled with low copper prices and failure by mining and exploration companies to strike any significant new ore reserves in the recent years. With this hindsight, the most prudent strategy for a capable and visionary national leadership is to promote importation of concentrates cheaply into the country. Further, it is critical, as a matter of policy, for government to promote toll-treatment across the sector and encourage participation of small-scale mineral traders in mineral backward, forward and side-stream value-chains. By so doing, we can easily double the tonnage of copper cathodes exports. With political instability in DRC, our second largest trading partner, scaling-up importation of cheap concentrates into Zambia is the way to go. Zambia has a huge smelting capacity which at the moment is operating below optimum capacity.
Besides focus on mineral sector for basic mining jobs, it is imperative to redeem the sector so that it becomes vibrant once more several institutional and strategic reforms so that it becomes an enabler of green technologies. One of key area we could harness is sulphate and sulphuric acid surplus on the Copperbelt and in Northwestern Province, which currently we are wasting to pollute rivers and streams. These resources could be used to diversify the economy from copper-export dependent to phosphate and fertilizer production for high-value agricultural development. Sulphuric acid could also be used as an enabler of biomass projects including biofuels, electricity generation, fibre (hemp) crops production etc. We could also convert them tp other forms of sulphur such as concentrated Sulphur dioxide solution or elemental Sulphur all of which we import at the moment. There is a huge market at local, national and regional markets for excess quantities.