Argonaut Resources, an Australian mineral exploration company, has been embroiled in a legal dispute over the Lumwana West exploration license in Northwestern Zambia. The license was cancelled and re-granted to a newly registered company, prompting Argonaut’s subsidiary, Mwombezhi Resources, to appeal the decision.
In the first instance, it was announced that the Zambian High Court ordered the Minister of Mines to decide on the appeal within 30 days. The court had previously suspended both the cancellation and grant of the license two months earlier. Argonaut’s legal action seeks to reinstate the Lumwana West license to Mwombezhi Resources, which is 90% owned by the company. The CEO of Argonaut, Lindsay Owler, views the court’s order as an opportunity for the Zambian government to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, anti-corruption, and increased copper production in the country.
However, it was later revealed that the Zambian Minister of Mines and Mineral Development, Paul Kabuswe, refused Mwombezhi Resources’ appeal against the grant of a new license over the Lumwana West area. Argonaut is currently considering this decision, and the company notes that there are two additional forms of relief available to aggrieved parties under the Zambian Mining Act, including an appeal of the Minister’s decision to the Mining Tribunal.
The legal dispute has gained international attention as a test case, and the outcome will be closely watched by investors. It will provide insights into the Zambian government’s approach to foreign investment and its commitment to the rule of law. The court’s order to the Minister provides an excellent opportunity for the UPND government to showcase the attractiveness of Zambia as a foreign investment destination, particularly in light of President Hakainde Hichilema’s emphasis on the rule of law, anti-corruption, and Zambian prosperity via increased copper production.
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