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Zambezi mining temporarily halted

Zambia’s High Court has put a temporary stop to Zambezi Resources’ large-scale mining projects in the Lower Zambezi National Park. 

Earlier this month, the Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Harry Kalaba, gave the nod of approval for the construction of a copper mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park, claiming the mining company, Zambezi Resources, had adequately shown it would address any negative impacts. He thereby overturned the earlier decision by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to reject construction of a copper mining project due to environmental concerns. 

Kalaba stated the reasons for his approval of the mining project in a letter dated January 17, addressed to Zambezi Resources. It said: "I have carefully considered each and every ground of rejection given by the ZEMA board. I have decided to approve the project on the following grounds: Firstly, the project should go ahead because it will eventually create employment for ordinary people in the area. Secondly, there are currently available cost-effective technologies and methods to adequately address all the identified negative impacts that may arise from this project and lastly, wildlife management in the area will be enhanced and conserved by the proposed managed scheme contained in your submissions."

Following the approval from Kalaba, ZEMA appeared to change tack and issued Zambezi Resources with a formal approval letter confirming the granting of the Environmental Impact Study for the copper project. 

However, the approvals of both Kalaba and ZEMA did not sway environmental organisations. The Community Based Natural Resource Management Forum – supported by ActionAid Zambia – appealed to the court for an injunction. On January 6, the Court granted a stay of execution of the decision to allow large-scale mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park pending hearing of an appeal, which will take place on February 18.

ActionAid Zambia Country Director, Pamela Chisanga said: “We fully support the High Court’s decision to halt this project while the case undergoes an appeal.” She said she found it impossible to see how wildlife conservation would be enhanced by the presence of an open-pit mine. The proposed jobs would also be unlikely to benefit the local people and they are likely to be affected by pollution from the mine.

Chisanga was quoted in local newspapers as saying: “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. 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.”

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