According to Action Aid, the injunction was successfully lodged on Friday following the government’s overturning of an earlier decision to reject a Large Scale Mining Licence for Zambezi Resources’ copper project in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
An Australian mining and exploration company was originally granted a licence for its Kangaluwi copper project by the Zambian government in March 2011 on condition of approval of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This was lodged with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) in March 2012 but was later rejected in September 2012.
On 17 January this year, a subsequent appeal lodged by Zambezi Resources was confirmed as successful by the Minister of Lands, National Resources and Environmental Protection, the Hon Harry Kalaba. He advised that there are adequate cost effective measures and technologies available to address all potential impacts and that wildlife management in the area would be enhanced and conserved as a result of the mine.
This claim has been refuted by the CBNRM Forum, which is supported by ActionAid Zambia to engage with communities and government on the issue. The forum believes that the Environmental Management Act of 2011 – which should facilitate protection and conservation of the environment – is not being respected, and that the government does not have the capacity to monitor companies involved in extractive industries to ensure that they are abiding by the terms and conditions of their licence.
ActionAid Zambia Country Director Pamela Chisanga said:
“The concerns raised by Zambia Environmental Management Agency as part of its rejection of the Environmental Impact Statement including the proximity to Mana Pools World Heritage Site, the issue of acid rock drainage and the reduction in tourism in the national park are legitimate and cannot be mitigated as outlined by Zambezi Resources in their proposed management scheme.
“It is impossible to see how wildlife conservation will be enhanced by the presence of an open pit mine and the proposed jobs are unlikely to benefit the local people, who will also be affected by the pollution from the mine.
“The communities who live in and around the park are highly dependent on agriculture and will no longer be able to grow their own food to feed their families as the area becomes urbanised. The Lower Zambezi will ultimately become the next Solwezi, with slums mushrooming to house migrant workers.
“This is the first time that a mining licence has been granted for the purpose of large scale open pit mining in a national park in Zambia and sets a dangerous precedent for the opening up of protected spaces.
“We are extremely disappointed that the minister has overridden the earlier decision by ZEMA not to approve the licence. As there are copper and other minerals everywhere in Zambia we are extremely concerned that if project goes ahead, mining will inevitably become a regrettable feature of all our national parks.”
On Friday, six environmental advocates were arrested but later released without charge for staging a protest at Pamodzi Hotel where Vice-President Guy Scott was meeting the Australian investors.