Tourism and conservation stakeholders in Zambia have joined the call by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Zambia for government to reconsider issuing a mining licence in Lower Zambezi National Park amid concerns of a “major threat to tourism”.

Last week the High Court of Zambia ruled that the controversial Kangaluwi open-cast copper mine project would go ahead in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park.

This was after the court dismissed the appeal against the mine on a legal technicality because the initial legal team that fought the case five years ago failed to file a record of appeal.

The site of the mine is between two seasonal rivers that flow directly into the Zambezi River. The mine’s tailings dams will reportedly  be just a few hundred metres above the valley floor, next to these rivers.

Country Director of WWF Zambia, Nachilala Nkombo, highlighted that the Lower Zambezi National Park was one of four national parks that generated up to 96% of Zambia’s non-consumptive wildlife tourism revenues.

“Although the mine is expected to cover about 980 square kilometres –  which is about 25% of the park – it is estimated that more than 50% of the national park will be lost – the entire northern part of the park,” she said.

A spokesperson for Zambia Tourism highlighted that while the park was “still relatively undeveloped”, its beauty being its wilderness state.

“The diversity of animals is not as wide as the other big parks, but the opportunities to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are spectacular. The park lies opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe, so the whole area on both sides of the Zambezi River is a massive wildlife sanctuary and a huge tourism drawcard.”

“The WWF position is on firm ground, which every sane person must support. The recent High Court ruling is repugnant. We must all rise in defence of Lower Zambezi National Park against obliteration of its natural environment, which serves as one of our country’s greatest tourism assets,” said Flavian Mupemo, Protected Areas Manager of Zambia Wildlife Authority.