Zambia lifts metals ban after two days

2011-10-06 15:18

Lusaka - Zambia has lifted a ban on metal exports just two days after imposing it to sort out irregularities and increase transparency in Africa’s top copper producer, a minerals ministry official said on Thursday.

Newly-elected President Michael Sata has been concerned - analysts say with good reason - about copper exporters misreporting the amount of ore leaving Zambia, and earlier this week suspended export permits to put new guidelines in place.

Sata already said last week that all export payments would need to be routed via the central bank.

“The suspension has been lifted. The job has been done. We don’t need 10 years to do the job,” mines permanent secretary Godwin Beene told Reuters.

The ministry initially said it would need until October 16 to put new measures in place, but miners were able to resume shipments on Thursday.

“Correct, the mines started loading our trucks again,” a logistics source said.

Details of the new prodecures were not immediately clear.
“The new measures will come into effect when the Bank of Zambia is ready. For now the exports will continue to be guided by the existing Mines and Minerals Development Act,” Beene said.

While miners said they were taking a wait-and-see approach, analysts said some of the drastic moves imposed by Sata’s government which swept into power last week may unnerve investors.

Sata quickly moved against the policies of the previous administration, whose Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) had ruled the country for 20 years.
Copper producers operating in the country include Canada’s First Quantum Minerals, London-listed Vedanta Resources, Glencore International and Metorex of South Africa.

Copper accounts for three-quarters of Zambia’s export earnings but the mining industry contributes only about 10% of tax revenue.

Data show much of the exported copper is destined for Switzerland but little of it shows up in Swiss customs figures, raising questions about transparency.