Zambia suspends metal export permits awaiting

Wed Oct 5, 2011 5:24pm GMT

By Melanie Burton and Chris Mfula

LONDON/LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's new government has temporarily suspended metal export permits ahead of the release of new guidelines, the mining ministry said in the latest move aimed at increasing transparency in Africa's top copper producer.

Newly elected President Michael Sata has been concerned -- analysts say with good reason -- about copper exporters misreporting the amount of ore leaving the country, and last week said henceforth all export payments would have to be routed via the central bank.

The suspension of permits is another sign of Sata's administration acting quickly on its populist campaign promises.

"All current permits issued by my ministry are immediately suspended pending issuance of new guidelines by the government," Godwin Beene, the permanent secretary at the ministry said in the document, dated October 4 and seen by Reuters.

The new procedures are to be in place by October 16, according to the document addressed to the heads of miners operating in the country, which include Canada's First Quantum Minerals, London-listed Vedanta Resources, Glencore International AG and Metorex of South Africa.

Zambia's copper sales amounted to 819,000 tonnes last year. A 10-day export ban would result in companies not being able to export roughly 22,500 tonnes of copper.

"We are aware of the suspension. For now, I have no comment," the general manager of the chamber of mines of Zambia Frederick Bantubonse told Reuters.

Copper accounts for three-quarters of Zambia's export earnings, but the mining industry contributes only about 10 percent of its tax revenue.   Continued...

A shipment of copper in a file photo.   REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez
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