Zambia Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources and energy

Zambia is known for its high quality copper ore assets. Copper exports have long been the country’s most important source of income, and it will learn so in the foreseeable future. Zambia also has good access to hydropower, but during drying periods there is a shortage of electricity. Cobalt, coal and diamonds are other important natural resources.

The first mine, Broken Hill, was opened in 1906 outside the town of Kabwe, a little north of the capital Lusaka. There, lead and zinc were mined until 1994. The center of the mining industry is now located in the 20-mile-long and seven-mile-wide province of the Copperbelt North, where copper mining began in the 1920s.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Zambia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

Zambia is estimated to have 6 percent of the world’s copper assets. When mining was most profitable in the late 1960s, Zambia accounted for 12 percent of the world’s copper production. After the fall in copper prices in the mid-1970s, the market was difficult to recover and during the 1980s the large state-owned copper company was heavily indebted. In 1991, the government decided to privatize the copper giant, but it was not realized until 2000.

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Plenty of cobalt

During the first year of the 2000s, foreign, not least Chinese, companies made major investments in the Zambian copper industry. At the same time, the privatizations carried out led to lower costs. The result was a production increase of 75 percent between 2000 and 2005. In the following years, production reached up to – and surpassed – the top quotes of the 1970s. Nevertheless, Zambia’s share of the world copper market fell to just over 3 percent, mainly due to the global market’s growth.

Zambia is one of the world’s leading producers of cobalt, an alloy metal that is mined together with copper. Zinc, lead, gold, silver, selenium, marble and precious stones such as emeralds, amethysts and diamonds are also mined.

Zambia has significant coal assets, estimated at around 250 million tonnes. However, the mining in the only coal mine corresponds to only one tenth of the capacity. Foreign companies have also been looking for oil without much success. Instead, oil is imported via pipeline from Tanzania and refined in Zambia.

Electricity shortage and environmental problems

Only about one fifth of the population is estimated to have access to electricity – in the countryside the proportion is only 4 percent. Most Zambians – in the villages as well as in the cities – rely on charcoal and wood for cooking and heating the houses. Electricity is primarily produced at large domestic hydropower plants.

Power outages and power outages are common problems, especially during drying periods. In such circumstances, the electricity is often shut down by area. Heavy drought and low levels in the water reservoirs helped the usually prioritized mining companies to reduce their electricity consumption in 2015. An expansion of the power plants is planned in the next few years and the large Caribao dam will be renovated. Zambia and Zimbabwe, which jointly own the dam and power plant, have applied for international loans for this.

The environmental problems are mainly caused by severe air pollution in the Copperbelt. Leachate water (contaminated emissions) from the mines is another concern. Extensive harvesting of savannah forest leads to soil degradation. Poaching is a serious threat to the populations of rhino, elephant, antelope, lion and other large cat animals.


Energy use per person

631 kilograms of oil equivalent (2013)

Electricity consumption per person

703 kWh, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

4 503 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

0.3 ton (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

88.0 percent (2015)



84 people are released from suspicion

84 people arrested in the autumn for suspected separatism in Barotseland are released. The released were accused of wanting to make Barotseland in western Zambia their own state (see April 2012).

Unusual arrest attracts a lot of attention

The Zambian police unit working against corruption seizes a female police chief, accused of being mutilated by receiving a car as a gift from a mining company. The case gets a lot of attention as it is unusual for officials or police to be arrested in Zambia.


The ex-president’s son seized

President Banda’s son Andrew is arrested by the police and detained for a few hours before being released again. The reason for the arrest is that Andrew has expressed disdain for President Sata in connection with a political meeting.

Journalists are arrested for regime-critical articles

Two journalists are arrested and charged with rioting. According to the authorities, they work for the news site Zambian Watchdog, which is one of the few independent media in the country and writes about corruption in Sata’s government. Zambian Watchdog keeps its employees’ names secret for fear of reprisals.


Frank Bwalya forms new party

Catholic priest Frank Bwalya, who was previously a member of the PF, is forming a new party called the Alliance for a Better Zambia. According to Bwalya, the new party will work across all ideological boundaries and for all the ethnic groups in the country.


The president withdraws subsidies

President Sata decides to abolish the substantial subsidies on maize introduced after he took office as president in 2011. The reason is that the state needs to save money. The decision leads to demonstrations and clashes between supporters and opponents of Sata.

Two men risk imprisonment after sexual relationship

Two young men are arrested for having a sexual relationship with each other. They risk up to 14 years in prison. After a year in custody, the men are acquitted in July 2014. The court considers that the evidence is too weak.


Pleaded guilty to Hichilema

The indictment against opposition leader Hichilema is closed (see January 2013).

They are arrested after pronounced support for gay rights

A prominent advocate for gay rights is arrested after he demanded in a radio broadcast that Zambia decriminalize homosexuality. He is prosecuted for “encouraging the public to participate in obscene activities”.


Banda is taken away from prosecution immunity

Parliament deprives President Banda of his prosecution immunity. The government allows the police to arrest Banda, who is accused of embezzling the equivalent of just over $ 11 million during his time as head of state.


The President is prosecuting Hichilema

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is being charged with defamation by President Sata. He is released on bail pending trial.

Zambia Energy and Environment Facts

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