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Zambia Aims To Kickstart Manganese Production

Zambia Aims to Kickstart Manganese Production

The landlocked African nation of Zambia is best known for its copper. In 2012, it produced 675,000 metric tons (MT) of the metal, good for seventh on the US Geological Survey's (USGS) list of leading copper-producing countries. However, the country is looking to lower its reliance on copper by encouraging the development of other metals, including coal, uranium, iron ore and manganese.

Estimates of Zambia's manganese reserves are hard to come by. In March, Zambia Manganese Corporation's smelter general manager, Leon Erasmus, told an environmental impact assessment meeting that the country has 15 million MT of high-quality manganese. That's obviously a very general estimate, but if substantiated, it would make Zambia roughly the world's eighth-largest producer, behind Gabon, based on USGS data.

Zambia: open for business?

The country's mining sector was nationalized in 1978 only to be reprivatized in 1998. Since then, the Zambian government has been taking steps to attract more foreign investment to the industry.

“Time-wasting procedures that may confront foreign investors elsewhere have been eliminated in Zambia and legal requirements have been reduced to an absolute minimum,” states the website of the country's Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development. “Streamlined processing of paperwork and rapid decisions, guided by the Investment Centre, greatly facilitate all aspects of importation of equipment and export of products.”

The country is currently reviewing its Mines and Minerals Act and is expected to approve an amendment that will allow the granting of longer licensing permits. That will allow investors to “have the confidence that they will have security of tenure,” Mines Minister Yamfwa Mukanga was quoted as saying in a February 6 Mineweb article. “We are trying to attract more investment in the country by reviewing the legal framework. We are not going to go backwards,” he added.

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