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Sluggish start to ZCCM sell off.

Zambia Consolidated Copper mines (ZCCM) has floated a proposal to international buyers for the sale of majority shares in the conglomerate's Nkhana Division. Henry Kapata report on who is interested and why.

If Zambia is to produce world class copper, at world class prices; if the country is to truly benefit from its greatest mineral asset, things will have to change at ZCCM.

That they are beginning to change is beyond doubt: President Chiluba recently announced that the long awaited agreement with Anglo American Corporation for a huge injection of money into the Konkola mining project is going ahead, but will it go far enough to resuscitate Zambia's ailing mines?

Many argue it can only address the problems at Konkola, with the rest of ZCCM's operations left unattended. Yet the sale of Nkana, and the development of its huge Mindolo shaft, could be the next step in the salvation of Zambian copper.

CDC Country Representative Mr David Johns, recently said that the Corporation is interested in the ZCCM proposal, but would only participate if another mining company joined with ZCCM to undertake the technical aspects of the project.

CDC is only a finance house, he said. "We are ready to put up the money but we can only do so if a mining house with a lot of interest and with a stake in ZCCM is found."

Mr Johns indicated that the Government delay in establishing exactly when and how it would sell ZCCM had been a major factor in the company's failure to attract investors in the past. Privatisation of ZCCM is cardinal if the project is to succeed.

"We are still awaiting Government's decision on whether it would privatise and how it would do it. If the answers to these questions are given, things would certainly start moving." he said.

The proposals are to increase the depth of the Mindolo Shaft, which has large amounts of copper ore, inaccessible without mining far deeper underground.

A deeper shaft would be able to produce about 30,000 tonnes of copper every month, increasing the country's copper output, which has been declining for some time.

The project, master minded by ZCCM's Technical Director Mr John Patterson, was conceived several years ago, but work had to be stopped due to a lack of funds.

Prominent Lusaka business consultant, Mr Theo Bull, said CDC's interest was a veiled offer to buy Nkana Division, and that the Government will have to make up its mind sooner rather than later.

He believes the Government should not sell all its shares in the mines, but at the same time ensure that control is given to those who put in substantial sums of money.

"It would be imprudent to sell all state shares in ZCCM. What should happen is that some mines be sold as quickly as possible so that they become viable again," he said.

Kitwe based economist Mr Murray Sanderson agrees with Mr Bull, saying retention of shares by the Government in the mines is important, but quick action should be taken to return the mines to profitability.

INTERNET EXPORT DATA

Meanwhile, the Export Board of Zambia (EBZ) is to set up a modern information database that will have access to all parts of the world through the Internet. The project is designed to assist local exporters to get up-to-the-minute market information.

EBZ Acting Executive Director Johnson Mwenya, says the database will be set up this year at an estimated cost of ECU 50,000 ($70,000) sourced from the European Community.

The database will involve buying a computer network linked to the Internet, so that exporters can access prices, quality and standards, trade trends and new regulations in various countries.

The proposals, already tabled before Government and various donors, come in the wake of growing exports of nontraditional goods, and an increase in local demand for information about world export markets.

There are plans to open a regional office in Ndola to cater for exporters in the copperbelt wishing Internet access.

Zambian export sector earnings grew by 15% last season, and are predicted to break the $250m barrier by the year 2000 if current export trends continue.

EBZ projects are expected to earn $178m this year from non-traditional exports, compared to $129.3m earned last year.

The largest share of exports came from engineering products, followed by textiles, processed foods and primary agricultural products.
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Title Annotation:Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines
Author:Kapata, Henry
Publication:African Business
Date:Apr 1, 1996
Words:730
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