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Zambian MP, Deepak Patel
"The reason we're in this mess is because we did not sell the mines as and when we should have - probably in '93 or '94"
 real 28k

Friday, 31 March, 2000, 05:06 GMT
Zambia sells off copper mines
Downturn in copper prices hit the industry hard
By Ishbel Matheson in Lusaka

The last major sale of Zambia's copper mines will take place at a special ceremony in the capital Lusaka on Friday.

Copper is the major source of wealth in the country, which is one of the poorest in the world.

But the state-run industry has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by mismanagement and corruption.

It is hoped the privatisation of the mines - which has proved controversial within Zambia - will help rejuvenate the country's ailing economy.


"We've sold the family silver for nothing" said one independent MP on the sale of Zambia's biggest national asset.

By the end of the day, after over 25 years under state control, the country's copper mines will revert to the private sector.

copper belt
The sale will bring hardship to Zambians in the short term
The buyer is mining giant Anglo American, which is paying $90m for the three mines in one of the world's richest copper belts. Analysts say that Anglo has got itself a great bargain.

Zambia was built on the wealth of king copper. In the boom days of the 1970s, the revenue from the mines built schools, roads, houses and funded the development of a nation.

But the country's greatest asset has now turned into its biggest liability.

A downturn in the world's copper prices combined with mismanagement and corruption has brought the industry to its knees.

Many Zambians accept the need to sell off the mines but they are critical of the sorry saga which has preceded the privatisation.

Income slumps

The government of President Frederick Chuluba has procrastinated over the sale for nine years.

During that time, the condition of the mines has deteriorated and the income from copper has more than halved.

The final privatisation will come as a relief to Zambia's major Western donors who contribute a third of the country's national budget.

They made it clear that all future financial assistance to Zambia was dependent on the mines - which are losing $14m a month - being sold off.

But in the short term, the sale will bring great hardship for many ordinary Zambians as thousands of miners are set to lose their jobs.

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21 Dec 99 | Africa
Copper Belt braces for change
21 Oct 99 | Crossing continents
Zambia's orphaned generation
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