Zambia's High Court on Tuesday appointed a provisional administrator for the country's largest copper mining firm, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), with the government seeking to have another investor replace its current majority-owner, London-based Vedanta Resources.
State-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH), which is a minority shareholder in KCM, has sought the liquidation of KCM's assets according to court papers.
The court immediately appointed legal firm Lungu Simwanza and Company "to act as provisional liquidator" pending the "conclusion of the hearing" of the petition by ZCCM-IH. The case is due to be heard on Friday.
"Currently the government is in talks with three investors for a possible takeover of the mine," he added.
Vedanta Resources initially opposed changes to Zambia's taxes, but later agreed. The government has targeted the mining sector to generate revenue as the country struggles under growing debt, but businesses have warned that the tax proposals could trigger a mass withdrawal of investment and thousands of redundancies.
KCM, which employs 13,000 people, said in a statement on Monday that it "has sought an urgent meeting with the president".
It said it has invested over $3 billion into its operations since 2004 and is "yet to receive a positive return on this investment while, on the other hand, taxes, duties, fuel and power costs have risen exponentially".
Analysts believe Vedanta could be replaced by a Chinese company.
"President Lungu's aggressive targeting of global commodity firms also hints at Zambia's increasing reliance on China, its largest bilateral creditor," he said. Zambia is Africa's second copper producing country after Democratic Republic of Congo.