Pitted differences between 100 Civil Society Groups and the Zambian Government have arisen following an approval for the construction of a new copper mine in Lower Zambezi National Park.
Recently the Government approved the construction of Kangaluwi copper mine in lower Zambezi national part, a decision the civil society groups have described a national tragedy.
Lands and environment minister Harry Kalaba says the copper mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park will proceed unless there is ‘very huge’ tangible evidence that will go against the government’s interests adding that the government had made a decision on the issue of mining in the national park.
“I think government has made a position and unless there is very huge tangible evidence that will go against government’s interests… in fact, the matter is that whatever the government does, it does it for the greater good of the people and we’ll not be irresponsible really to begin doing things that will be outside the people’s interests,” Kalaba told reporters in Lusaka recently.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is a massive breeding ground for elephants, lions, leopards and large herds of buffalo roaming the floodplains.
In 2011, the Australian Stock Exchange-listed mining company Zambezi Resources was granted a 25-year mining licence by the Zambian government (MMD) to begin plans for an open-pit mine right on the Zambezi Escarpment in the centre of the protected reserve.
However, the approval by the Government has raised an uproar among the civil society groups concerned with the welfare of animals and other habitants of the national parks, being a preserve.
In statement on behalf of the over 100 CSOs, the Zambia Community Natural Resources Management Forum (ZCBNRM), noted with regretted that the approval of the proposed Kangaluwi Large Scale Copper Mining Project of Mwembeshi Resources Limited in the Lower Zambezi National Park by Minister is a national tragedy.
ZCBNRM spokesperson Vincent Ziba stated that despite protests against the government’s unilateral decision to approve the project on 17 January, 2014, the Government has remained adamant with due disregard for various factors at play.
The ZCBRM on behalf of the other concerned parties added its disappointment over the decision made by Government 17 January 2014, to approve the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the Kangaluwi Mining Project license 15547-HQ-LML by Mwembeshi Resources Limited. It claimed the EIS had earlier been rejected by many stakeholders.
The civil rights groups noted that on 5 September 2012 Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) had rejected the proposed large scale mining activities in Lower Zambezi National Park based on solid technical grounds.
The previous minister did not approve this EIS because he wanted to subject the matter to Cabinet for further guidance.
As Civil Society Organisations they are now seeking to re-engage Government using all available avenues as provided by the Laws of Zambia to find a sustainable solution to the issue because the Environmental Impact Assessment report did not meet the required standards.
However, the Government has remained defiant and maintained the copper mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park will proceed unless there is ‘very huge’ tangible evidence that will go against the government’s interests, Kalaba stated adding that the government had made a decision on the issue of mining in the national park.
“I think government has made a position and unless there is very huge tangible evidence that will go against government’s interests… in fact, the matter is that whatever the government does, it does it for the greater good of the people and we’ll not be irresponsible really to begin doing things that will be outside the people’s interests,”
According to data, Mwembeshi Resources Limited seeks to develop a large-scale open pit mine valued at US$494.6 million in the Chongwe district of Zambia. Mwembeshi Resources is a subsidiary of Zambezi Resources Limited.
The company recently announced that the copper project will be located on a greenfield site at the Kangaluwi mine. 15 million tonnes of copper per annum will be produced when the mine is fully operational.
According to a final environment impact statement (EIS) submitted to the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) for review, the funds are expected to be used for exploration, feasibility studies, mine development, equipment, mill infrastructure, tailings, power supply, working capital and reclamation.
In its initial report, the company had proposed to employ 250 people oyed at the mine. The proposed Kangaluwi copper project will involve large-scale open pit mining of the rock that hosts copper mineralisation.
Apart from the Kangaluwi project, open pit operation will also take place at Kalulu, Chisawa and Imboo. The open pit mines will be treated as satellite pits to the Kangaluwi open pit.
Last year the firm spent $12 million on the project since granting of a licence in 2003. The investment was mainly put into exclusive geophysical and geochemical reconnaissance studies leading to the other three prospected areas, the company said on its website.