Zambia: mining licence process map

26 June 2020

What is the process for awarding mining rights in Zambia? What steps must the company and the government follow?

These ‘maps’ present this process as a step-by-step guide. They sheds light on a process that is often complex and complicated, making it more transparent.

Mining is an important feature of Zambia’s economy accounting for 10.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, contributing to 78.4 per cent of total export value (Zambia EITI Report 2018) and comprising 62 per cent of foreign direct investment (World Bank 2016). 

The most prominent minerals mined in Zambia include copper, cobalt, coal, gold, manganese and gemstones, specifically emeralds. 

This licence map describes the process of awarding small-scale and large-scale exploration licences as well as artisanal mining, small-scale mining and large-scale mining rights (licences).

This map applies to the process across the country  the mining licence awarding process is centralised. The central government processes and awards all mining exploration and extraction licences.  Even though applications may be filed with Mining Cadastre regional/provincial offices; all applications are sent to the Mining Cadastre in the capital Lusaka. Mining companies do consult with local authorities at district level but ultimately licenses are awarded by the national (central) government.  

The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development through the Mining Cadastre is responsible for processing and administering mining licences 

Mineral resource ownership is vested in the President on behalf of the nation regardless of who owns the land or has an interest in the land where minerals are found.  

All land can be considered for mining provided written consent is obtained from relevant authorities or representatives or persons. Additionally, this has to be approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.  The government specifies the conditions for mining in ‘reserved areas’ in the Mines and Minerals Development Act of 2015. Further, the Mines and Minerals Act of 2015 prescribes how to navigate mining rights vis a vis various surface (land) rights. 

The most important law that prescribes the awarding of mining licensing permits, awards and contracts is the Mines and Minerals Development Act of 2015. 

Mining licences’ validity depend on the scale of mining as follows: 

  • Small-scale exploration –period of four years and is not renewable except for diamond exploration 
  • Large-scale exploration –period of four years 
  • Artisanal mining – period not exceeding two years
  • Small-scale mining – period not exceeding 10 years
  • Large-scale mining – period not exceeding 25 years

After which the mining company or actor may apply to the Mining Cadastre for a licence renewal as stipulated and specified in the Mines and mineral Development Act of 2015. 

Notably, Artisanal mining can only be undertaken by Zambian citizens or a cooperative wholly composed of Zambian citizens. While Small Scale mining can only be undertaken by a citizen-owned or citizen-influenced or citizen-empowered company.