May 10, 2010 (DOW JONES NEWSWIRES) -- The Zambian government has issued a mining license for disused pits in Chingola, in the Copperbelt province to a consortium of ex-miners, government officials said Monday.
A group of former miners under Mimbula Consortium has been granted mining rights for disused pits at Mimbula Fitula in Chingola, within the mining areas licensed to Konkola Copper Mines, the country's largest copper producer, officials at the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development told Dow Jones Newswires.
KCM, majority-owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.LN), suspended mining operations at the pits some years back, declaring them less viable, however, smallscale miners continued to operate them illegally.
"The government asked the ex-miners to form a consortium to give them access to a large-scale mining license," a government official said adding that the group will be extracting concentrates from the pits for treatment at plants on the Copperbelt.
Last year, the safety department at the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development banned mining activities at the pits following a spate of accidents. The pits had attracted hundreds of illegal miners who were operating without safety measures.
Officials say conditions have been set as part of the license to the consortium and that these include the observation of safety measures during mining and liability for environmental issues at the pits.
Last year, at least 10,000 miners in Zambia lost their jobs as mining companies made cuts to cope with low global copper prices. Although copper prices have largely recovered more than 75% of former miners are yet to be rehired.
Zambia is Africa's top copper producer.