June 23, 2016 / 10:27 AM / 3 years ago

Zambia expects copper output to double next year

Drilling operations at a depth of 516 metres below the surface at the Chibuluma copper mine in the Zambian copperbelt region, January 17, 2015. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s copper production will rise by 5.5 percent to 750,000 tonnes this year and output is expected to double to 1.5 million tonnes in 2017, Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma said on Thursday.

Copper production in Africa’s second-biggest producer stood at 711,515 tonnes in 2015.

“It has to do with mining companies trying to optimise their production. We will also maintain consistent mining policies,” Yaluma told journalists on the sidelines of a mining conference.

Zambia’s frenzied royalty tax changes last year caused concern in the mining sector and prompted firms to suspended major capital investment.

The cabinet in February approved a new royalty system that varies depending on the copper price as the country seeks to keep struggling mines open and limit job losses.

Mining companies operating in Zambia including Vedanta Resources and Glencore cut thousands of jobs and closed copper shafts as prices fell after slower growth by top consumer China.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Joe Brock

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