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By ZamChro Correspondent,


Government is now ready to issue uranium mining licenses to two of the four investors who applied for them under the new legislation, Zambian Chronicle has learned. This is according to a communiqué issued by Mines and Minerals Development Deputy Minister Boniface Nkhata.


Mr. Nkhata said revealed while attending the ongoing Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town. He said that the two licenses would be granted before the end of the current quarter.


“Four mining companies have applied for uranium mining permits under recently established legislation and two of these will be granted the licenses in the first quarter of 2009,” the minister said.


He said the developments in the world financial market had affected production in Zambia’s mining industry. Zambia expects copper production to fall to around 600,000 tones this year from a planned 700,000 tones because of shutdowns in the sector grappling with low copper prices.


“For 2009, we were predicting 700,000 tones but we’ve revised that figure down to about 600,000 tones,” he said on the sidelines of the conference.


The Government had to back down from its higher tax regime because of the reversal of high copper prices, canning the windfall tax introduced last year and increasing capital allowance to 100 per cent to promote investment in the country.


Custom duties on copper have been abolished and copper and cobalt concentrates now qualify for an import deferment scheme for Value Added Tax purposes.


“These measures are aimed at reducing operating costs for the mining companies. Although the sector recorded positive growth, it was affected by the sharp decline in metal prices in the third quarter of 2008, thereby, dampening the prospects of higher growth and profitability,” Mr. Nkhata told delegates.


Luanshya Copper Mines and Chambishi Metals have both suspended mining and metallurgical work.


In addition, exploration projects have been severely affected across the mining sector because projects have no revenue streams and are mainly dependent on stock exchanges and loans from the banks for financing.


On oil exploration, the deputy minister said the Government had demarcated 29 blocs for oil and gas exploration.


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