-- Zambia is the world's 10th biggest copper producer and the largest in Africa. Copper and cobalt mining is its economic lifeblood and the mines are a major employer.
-- Foreign firms have invested over $3 billion since 2000, when copper and cobalt mines were privatised. Power shortages have constrained copper output.
-- Foreign mining companies operating in Zambia include London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc (VED.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Canada's First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the Swiss firm Glencore International AG and Australia's Equinox Minerals Ltd. (EQN.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
-- Zambia says copper output will rise to 600,000 tonnes this year from 535,000 tonnes in 2007. The government forecasts that production will peak at 1 million tonnes by 2010 after new mines commence production.
* THE ECONOMY:
-- An International Monetary Fund report said last month that economic growth may slow in 2008 due to lower food output and electricity shortages that have affected industry.
-- Zambia said in September it hoped to cut its fiscal deficit to below 2.0 percent of GDP in 2008, and would take measures to fight an inflation rate of 13.2 percent.
* THE COUNTRY:
AREA: 752,612 sq km (290,600 sq miles), or slightly smaller than Turkey. Landlocked Zambia has borders with eight countries: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Tanzania. Formerly Northern Rhodesia, the country is named after the Zambezi River.
POPULATION: 12 million.
LANGUAGES: The official language is English. Zambia has around 72 local languages and dialects, including Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Nyanja and Tonga.
ETHNICITY: Some 98 percent of Zambians are descended from Bantu migrants, divided into around 70 ethnic groups. There are also small European and Asian minorities.
RELIGION: Zambia was declared a Christian nation by law in 1991, but traditional African religions are widely practised.