The mining industry has been the
economic and social backbone of Zambia since the first major
phase of exploitation of the Copperbelt's Cu-Co deposits commenced
in the early 1930's. Since that time a wide spectrum of other
metalliferous and non-metalliferous resources have been discovered
in Zambia and, although exploitation of these has been limited,
they clearly demonstrate the considerable opportunities for further
exploration and mining.
Zambia is internationally recognized as a major producer of copper
and cobalt; in 1966 it ranked as the world's seventh largest
producer of copper, generating 3.8% of the western world's production,
and the world's second highest producer of cobalt (21.8%) behind
the leading producer, D. R. Congo which sources its Cu-Co ore
from the strike-extension of Zambia's Copperbelt mineralization.
Significant quantities of selenium (18.6t in 1996) and silver
(8.7t), together with minor gold and platinum group elements,
are produced as important byproducts of the copper mining and
Copper mineralization was first discovered at the turn of the
century but large-scale production only commenced in the 1930's
with the start-up of Roan Antelope (Luanshya - 1931), followed
rapidly by Nkana (1932), Mufulira (1933), and then Nchanga in
1939. Copper production exceeded 400 000 t.p.a. in the late 1950's
and passed the 600 000 t.p.a. mark in the mid-1960's before beginning
a progressive decline in 1976-77 and sinking to a 1996-low of
350 000 t.p.a.
However, the move to privatization of Zambia
Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) should halt this decline and,
with a total mineral resource of at least two billion tonnes
on the Copperbelt alone, there is no doubt that copper and cobalt
production will soon begin a dramatic upward trend.
Copper refinery, Nkana
Zambia has a history of gold mining on a relatively small scale,
with the twenty larger deposits having produced slightly more
than 2t of gold since modern mining began in 1902. The largest
past producers are Dunrobin (990kg gold), Sasare (390kg), and
Matala (225kg); Dunrobin has recently been re-opened by Reunion
Mining and is scheduled to produce 500-600kg gold per annum.
More than 300 gold occurrences have been reported throughout
the country and some of these are currently being-re-evaluated.
The other important metal production has been zinc and lead from
the carbonate-hosted deposits of Kabwe which, with a total of
11Mt of ore containing 40% combined zinc and lead, ranks as one
of the highest grade Zn-Pb deposits of probable Mississippi Valley
- type in the world. Similar styles of mineralization have been
recognized over a wide area to the north of Kabwe.
Substantial resources of iron are known in central and western
Zambia, occurring as ironstones and lesser skarn deposits but
have yet to be exploited. Amongst other metalliferous occurrences
reported are sedimentary and fracture-hosted manganese and orthomagmatic
and shale-hosted nickel, together with tin and tungsten.
Alluvial diamonds have been recovered throughout Zambia, accompanied
in places by indicator minerals but, despite the discovery of
a number of kimberlite and lamproite intrusions, the sources
of the diamonds have yet to be found. Zambia's high-quality deep
green emeralds are in demand world-wide and, since 1970, have
been mined continuously on the southern margin of the Copperbelt
where they are hosted by pegmatite bodies. Pegmatites are also
common in eastern Zambia where they have been exploited for aquamarine
A wide range of known industrial minerals in Zambia include feldspar,
silica sand, talc, barite, phosphate (in carbonatite and syenite),
limestone, clays (mostly ball clay and brick clay), graphite,
and many varieties of possible dimension stone.
Since 1967, coal has been produced continuously
by Maamba Collieries from the fault-controlled Karoo basins of
southern Zambia. Production in 1997 was
164,000t but the open-pit mining operation has the potential
to return to past production levels of 500,000t.p.a.
Mining of marble as dimension stone near Lusaka
Limited exploration for hydrocarbons to date has been unsuccessful
but evaluation of existing data and re-interpretation of the
sequence stratigraphy indicates significant potential in the
lower and mid-Karoo sequences of the Luangwa and Mid-Zambezi
The mining sector contributed US$822 million to the total export
earnings of US$1050 million in 1997 and, of this, US$798 was
realized from sales of copper and cobalt. The balance of mining-sector
earnings come from sales of gold, silver, and selenium, mostly
byproducts of copper mining, and from emerald sales.
Contributions of industrial and manufacturing
sectors to Zambia's export earnings
The vulnerability of Zambia's economy due
to its reliance on copper mining has been exposed in the very
recent past by the falling copper price and by falling production
as a result of limited re-investment in the mining industry.
However, the privatization process has already led to significant
inflow of investment to the mining sector, and a reversal of
fortunes is confidently predicted for the copper mining industry
within the next 2-3 years. Re-inforced by future production of
additional metals and minerals, there is no doubt that the mining
industry will continue to provide both a sound base and a stimulus
for growth in the other sectors of the economy, leading to long-term
Value of mineral sales in Zambia during