The Tata group is in talks with the government of Zambia to explore iron ore and set up a steel plant in a proposed special economic zone (SEZ) in the African nation exclusively reserved for Indian companies, the Zambian minister for commerce, trade and industry said on Thursday.

“We will give them (Tatas) a mine, and we are fast," Felix Mutati said. About 200 sq. km has been identified in Kabwe in central Zambia for the India SEZ, he said. Already, 10 Indian companies have visited the country.

Site of an iron ore mine in Kheonjar, Orissa. Africa, like India, is looking at technology investment in grading up its mineral resources within their countries to develop their mining economies

Diamond production in Congo, which has suffered two civil wars and several thousand casualties, is about 28 carats, valued at $613 million. “But now we want to encourage more value addition," said Mupepele.

Syamal Gupta, chairman of Tata International Ltd and the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Africa committee, would not confirm Tata’s plans but said: “We are looking at all opportunities. We are exploring for coal, iron ore everywhere in the world."

About 500 delegates from more than 30 African nations are taking part in a three-day seminar sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Africa, like India, is looking at value-addition, or technology investment, in grading up its mineral resources within their countries to develop their mining economies. Such investments attempt to uplift the poor in the interior regions where most of the mineral is found.

“Value addition creates minimum dependence. When you do this, you bring peace, jobs are created and people are happy," Mutati said at the seminar.

Zambia is trying to attracting investment from nations such as Malaysia, Singapore and India. Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc., which is set to buy additional stake in the country’s Konkola mines, is one of the largest investors in Zambia’s metal and mining sector, valued at more than $1 billion.

The Tata group, which began its African operations in Zambia more than 20 years ago, has diverse interests in that country, including hospitality, agriculture and in the automotive industry.

China is already setting up a SEZ with an investment of $900 million. Malaysia is soon to follow suit, Mutati said.

Tata Africa, which is a group company of Tata International, oversees concerns of eight other group subsidiaries in the continent. At present, it is investing in a wide range of continent-wide projects valued at $1.6 billion.