Editorial Feature

Zambia: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Zambia, with a total population of 14,309,466 as of July 2012, is located in Southern Africa, to the east of Angola and south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Zambia covers a total area of 752,618 km2 and has a tropical climate.

The national flag of Zambia.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook

The territory of Northern Rhodesia was renamed Zambia after its independence in 1964. Zambia experienced a decline in its economy between the 1980s and 1990s due to prolonged drought, declining copper prices and economic mismanagement. However, in recent years, the country’s economy has improved with a GDP growth rate of more than 6% a year between 2005 and 2011.

The privatization of government-owned mines has led to an increase in copper mining output and uplifted Zambia’s economic status in the 1990s. Even though Zambia’s financial status continued to become stronger with foreign investments and increase in copper prices, the country is still impoverished due to high levels of HIV/AIDS, high birth rate, and an unstable market.

Overview of Resources

Zambia’s natural resources include uranium, silver, cobalt, copper, coal, lead, silver, zinc, emeralds, and gold. Zambia is also a chief global producer of semiprecious gemstones and cobalt.

Zambia’s social and economic backbone has always been its mining industry. The mining and refining of copper have been of immense importance in Zambia. Since the 1930s, a wide variety of non-metalliferous and metalliferous resources were discovered in Zambia and these resources have expanded the mining and exploration activities in the country.

Industrial Minerals

Zambia has an increasing number of limestone deposits in the Lusaka region located in the southern part of the Central Province and also in the Eastern province. Different varieties of silica sands can be found in Zambia. Feldspars are also commonly found, especially in pegmatites.

Zambia has been continuously producing coal since 1967, and the country also owns significant coal resources. The Maamba coal mine, near Lake Kariba in Zambia, produces huge quantities of coal.

The carbonate-hosted deposits of Kabwe are globally considered as one of the highest-graded zinc and lead deposits in Zambia.

The map of Zambia. Image Credit: CIA Factbook


Zambia is a globally recognized producer of cobalt and copper. The country is globally ranked as the second-largest producer of cobalt and the seventh-largest producer of copper. The country has also significant quantities of platinum and gold that are produced as by-products during the mining and processing operations of copper.

Mining of gold in Zambia takes place on a small-scale basis and some of the largest gold producers in Zambia include Jessie (390kg), Dunrobin (990kg gold), Sasare (390kg), and Matala (225kg).

Kariba Minerals Limited is currently the chief producer of amethyst in Zambia. About 700 tons of amethyst is produced annually in the country. Emeralds are found in the Miku-Kafubu area.

Fossil Fuels

Zambia’s oil imports were estimated to reach $618 million in 2010. The production of oil was at 190.3 bbl/day and the consumption of oil was at 16,000 bbl/day in 2010.


Zambia’s mineral industry is expected to become more stable in the coming years and recover from the global economic crisis that hit the country in late 2008 and early 2009. Further development of the country’s mineral resources is expected in the near future based on the current exploration of uranium, manganese, and nickel.

First Quantum, a mining company in Canada, has planned to invest $4 billion as part of new mining and expansion projects to be carried out in Zambia in the next two to three years.

Copper mining in Zambia has contributed to almost 75% of the country’s exports and most of the copper mining companies in Zambia are foreign-owned. A recent report by the Human Rights Watch stated that some copper mines in Zambia are extremely unsafe and the workers in these mines have been threatened against union activities.

Despite some negative developments, Zambia continues to expand its copper mining activities in order to achieve an annual production of 1 Mt/yr. The future of the mining industry in Zambia will thus largely depend on upgrading its copper mining operations by foreign companies and the attainment of the proposed production levels.

Disclaimer: The author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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