The likeliest beneficiary of Zambia's copper privatisation fiasco is the company the Zambians were anxious to keep out - Anglo American, the South African mining giant. After years of dithering, the Zambian government must finally sell Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). Under state ownership, production of copper - the nation's main asset, accounting for 90 per cent of foreign earnings and 25 per cent of GDP - has dropped from 720,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes last year.The government's debts are so vast that nobody will lend it money, even to invest in mining. Without massive investment the mines may run down as completely as next-door Congo-Kinshasa's did under ex-President Mobutu Sese Seko. Indeed mining houses are now eagerly buying up licences to prospect for surface copper deposits in Congo-K where they can extract the metal using open-cast mining for a fraction of the cost of Zambia's underground mines.
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