Why mining of precious stones in Zambia is left almost entirely in the hands of foreigners is something one cannot understand.
Mining these minerals is not a complicated undertaking as some people may want us to believe because it’s simply about excavating the earth for them in a more strategic and safe manner.
Take emerald mining, for instance, it’s basically scrounging for the precious stones from an open pit in the ground.
Nothing so difficult or complicated about it. It is an undertaking which does not even require expensive and complicated machinery because it can even be done with ordinary picks and shovels.
But indication is that most emerald mines in the country, particularly in the Lufwanyama area, are owned by foreigners with the biggest being Kagem Mines in which Zambia only have minimal shares.
The same goes with copper and gold mining operations. All major mining operations in Zambia are in the hands of foreigners and the Zambians are simply employees.
The rest of us are by-standers, simply watching how our own minerals are being extracted and exported abroad at colossal profits while we get ‘change’ paid to us as mineral tax – and that’s our only benefit as a country for habouring the precious resources.
We saw it how the people in Mwinilunga were recently stopped from exploiting their own gold resources and someone began talking about inviting investors to mine the newly discovered precious mineral deposits, meaning foreigners again.
Why our government does not trust its own citizens to own and run the mines is something we cannot understand.
Why the foreign owners are preferred to our own people is something difficult to comprehend too because Zambians are equally capable. They are the people managing the mines on behalf of the foreign owners after all.
Zambian professionals have the expertise and skills required to operate any mining operation in the world. Mining operations in Botswana, South Africa, Mali, DR Congo etc. are managed by Zambian professionals after all.
Zambia’s policies on mining need to be reviewed because they mostly favour foreigners and discourage Zambian citizens from owning mines.
Government need to deliberately come up with empowerment programmes to upgrade mining skills of small scale miners and a way to encourage Zambians to venture into the sector as mine owners – not just as employees as has always been the case.
We need to bear in mind that the benefits of having Zambians own the mines, in terms economic empowerment to the citizens and revenue to the nation, is much more than when they are owned by the foreigners as is currently the case.
We cannot over emphasise this case because every Zambian knows just how little we have been earning from the lucrative mining industry in terms of tax – peanuts.