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Zambia's state-controlled investment firm wants bigger stake in copper mines

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Following the sharp rise in copper prices this year Zambia's state-controlled firm ZCCM Investments Holdings wants to increase its stakes in the country's mines and also expects higher dividend payments, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

ZCCM-IH, which was formerly called Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings, has assets of about $1 billion with minority stakes held in the local mine operating subsidiaries of foreign miners including Glencore, First Quantum Minerals, Vedanta and Jinchuan Group International Resources.

Zambia is Africa's second largest copper producer behind the Democratic Republic of Congo and a 22 percent rise in prices this year has boosted profits for the miners.

"It's encouraging us to invest even more in copper. That's why we want to increase our shareholding in some of the assets we have," CEO Pius Kasolo told Reuters on the sidelines of a mining conference in London.

He would not be drawn on how much money ZCCM-IH would invest in the companies or over what period.

"It means every single mining company in Zambia is making a profit so we have to ask ourselves how do we extract that value from this mining company," he said.

The highest cost of production was around $5,200 a tonne for a mining company in Zambia against the benchmark price of around $6,700, Kasolo said.

"Its a matter of asking them. I can't have shares in a company where I don't realise value. What's the value of me having shares if they never give me value?" said Kasolo.

QUANTUM DISPUTE

Separately, ZCCM-IH, which is 77 percent state-owned, is suing Canadian company First Quantum for $1.4 billion over claims that First Quantum wrongly borrowed $2.3 billion from its local copper mining subsidiary Kansanshi Mining Plc.

The long-running claim by ZCCM-IH includes $228 million in interest on the loan as well as 20 percent of the principal amount, or $570 million and talks over a possible settlement began earlier this year.

ZCCM-IH alleged in court papers filed last year that First Quantum used the money as cheap financing for other operations while First Quantum has said the loans were granted at a fair market rate.

Kasolo said an out-of-court settlement might yet be reached but the court case would continue to run in parallel with discussions.

"We want a win-win situation. We don't want to kill the mine," he said. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala Editing by Greg Mahlich)