Lusaka - Zambia has suspended the issuance of new mining licences to root out potential corruption and "clean up" the process, the mines minister in Africa's top copper producer said on Thursday.
"My ministry has with immediate effect and until further notice suspended the issuance of new applications, renewal and transfer of mining and non-mining rights," Wylbur Simuusa said at a media briefing.
"During the suspension period, there will be an audit and clean-up of all mining and non-mining rights."
Earlier this month Zambia imposed and then hastily lifted a temporary ban on metal exports while it drafted new guidelines.
Zambia's long-time opposition leader Michael Sata
won election in the southern African country a month ago on a populist platform, with criticisms of foreign investors and promises to fight corruption.
Simuusa said the current issuing process was inefficient.
"I've also observed irregularities, litigation and allegations bordering on corruption," he said.
Simuusa said last week that Zambia will negotiate larger stakes in projects with foreign mining firms. It plans to revamp tax collection to improve transparency and maximize benefits for itself.
The existing tax collection process is difficult to administer and its revision would lead to greater tax compliance by the mines, he has said.
Foreign mining companies operating in Zambia include Canada's First Quantum Minerals , London-listed Vedanta Resources, Glencore International, Barrick Gold, Brazil's Vale and Metorex of South Africa.