The battle to block the development of a copper mine project in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park has received a boost with the country’s tourism minister throwing his hat in the ring.

Speaking at a meeting held yesterday (Wednesday) with those who opposed last week’s Lusaka High Court ruling that the controversial Kangaluwi open-cast copper mine project would go ahead following an appeal, Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela, committed to address the Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa over the impasse surrounding the Lower Zambezi mining license

Among those who voiced their concern about the future of tourism in the country’s third most popular attraction were locals who relied on income generated by tourism as well as tour operators and conservationists.

Country director of World Wildlife Fund 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.

Chitotela said he would also engage his colleagues at the Ministries responsible for Water Affairs and Environment as well as Ministry of Justice over the issue. He agreed to look at finding “an amicable solution” by looking at the impact on tourism in the Lower Zambezi Valley as well as the interests of the local people and “the nation at large”.

He pointed out that the Zambia Wildlife Act No 14 of 2015 gave specific instructions to the presiding Minister of Tourism to ensure that certain operational conditions were met before mining activities are allowed take place in a national park.

The site of the mine is located 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.