Oct 08, 2011 (Dow Jones) -- Copper output in Zambia, Africa's top producer of the metal, dropped by 1.2% on year in the first eight months of this year after above-normal rains disrupted mining operations at a number of open cast mines, the Central Bank of Zambia said Saturday.
Central Bank data indicate that January-August cumulative copper production dropped to 550,483 metric tons from 556,877 tons produced in a similar period last year.
However, January-August copper exports increased marginally to 547,068 tons from 546,106 tons in the same period last year. The disparity between production and exports is attributable to stockpiling.
Zambia experienced above-normal rains in the first half of the year, which caused flooding at some open-pit mines, disrupting mining operations, according to trade officials. Open-pit mines account for more than 50% of Zambia's annual copper production, according to the Chamber of Mines.
Copper-mining operations across the country have also been interrupted at least twice this year due to national power outages.
Zambia's January-August cobalt production also declined marginally, to 5,568 tons, down from 5,579 tons produced in the same period last year. Cobalt exports rose to 5,600 tons from 5,532 tons exported in a similar period last year.
Zambia's copper production has rebounded from a slump suffered a few years ago, aided by increased investments.
London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.LN), Toronto-listed First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.T) Brazil's mining major Vale SA (VALE, VALE5.BR) and commodity trading company Glencore International PLC (GLEN.LN, GLCNF) are implementing copper-expansion projects worth $6 billion in the country and Zambia is poised to join the ranks of top-five global copper producers in the next five years.
However, the recent election of a populist president, Michael Sata, has caused some worries among investors after he started to act on campaign promises such as improving workers' conditions and controlling exports this week.