Zambia needs a more competitive mining tax regime to entice both new and existing investors to invest billions of dollars into the mining industry and boost flagging production, says Nathan Chishimba, president of the Zambia Chamber of Mines.
“Last Friday’s budget speech by Finance Minister Felix Mutati aims to restore financial stability to the Zambian economy and lay the foundations for long-term economic growth – and economic growth depends on investment,” Chishimba says.
In a press statement publicising the release of a new report by the Chamber, Taxation and Mining Investment in Zambia, Chishimba says despite recent welcome changes to Mineral Royalty Tax (MRT), Zambia’s overall effective mining tax rate remains among the highest in the world.
“How is it that we have ceded our long-held position as Africa’s leading copper producer to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A key part of the answer has to be investment incentives and policy stability. The DRC’s tax regime is not only more investor-friendly than Zambia’s, but has also been much more stable. This has encouraged long-term investment, which has boosted production.”
Chishimba says the importance of new investment in Zambia is all the more timely, as the World Bank has projected that growth in copper production will start to slow after 2019. “Along with a decline in production, there will be a decline in government revenue, mining industry jobs and foreign exchange. However, production levels can increase if there is a new wave of investment.”
Taxation and Mining in Zambia quotes research showing that mining investment in Zambia benefits not just the mining industry but the wider economy too, through what is known as the ‘multiplier effect’. It means mines procure supplies from local businesses, and employees spend their wages in the economy, stimulating more business creation and more employment. A World Bank study on FQM’s Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi found that for every direct employment opportunity created at the mine, a further five were created in the wider economy.
The report also shows how levels of mining investment and national economic growth are inextricably linked. From 1997, investors in the newly re-privatised mining industry collectively poured more than $12 billion into modernisation, expansion and new greenfield ventures. Both copper production and economic growth recovered in 2000 and accelerated in the years thereafter. Importantly, this growth started before the copper price began to recover in 2004, proving it was the surge in investment which turned around the economic fortunes of the country.
The report goes on to cover the challenges of designing a mining tax regime which encourages continued investment – or at least does not discourage it.
The report considers the various phases that a typical mine goes through, from exploration and development to production and closure, and what incentives are necessary to encourage the development of resources through the various stages.
For example, during the exploration phase, when there is no income, the tax regime should ideally allow mines to defer losses to later years and write them off against future profitability. This incentivises mines to continue beyond exploration to actual mine construction.
“When taking business decisions, mines will respond to the nature of the tax treatment in place,” the report says.
Issued by Zambia Chamber of Mines
Acting Chief Executive officer