I have neglected my Zambia blog lately, for a myriad of reasons. Or should I say, excuses: busy at work; rainy season; no news on safaris or travel tips due to lack of recent travel within the country. The list could go on.
I could cheat and direct you to read blogs about the Lower Zambezi by other writers such as Paul Steyn on the National Geographic website. I could blog about my last visit to a safari camp, Potato Bush Camp in the Lower Zambezi. Somehow, I have managed to miss writing about it, and it was arguably the best safari we have been on so far. Don’t worry, I still plan to share this with you. Those fellas at the top of the post were from our first visit to the Lower Zambezi. Here is a little sneak preview from our last trip, but don’t worry: it wasn’t all elephants.
An open cast mine. Photo copyright Wikimedia Commons
Borrowed from Africa Geographic website
However, before I launch into the joys of our last safari (and you will have to wait another day to hear all about that!), I want to express my utter despair at the prospect of an open-pit copper mine being allowed in the Lower Zambezi National Park. It could end up looking something like this one.
In spite of rejection of this proposal back in September 2012 by ZEMA (Zambia Environmental Management Agency), the government’s Head of Ministry of Lands, National Resources and Environmental Protection, has overturned the earlier ruling which will allow an Australian company (operating under the name Zambezi Resources) to mine for copper in the middle of a National Park. Another blog by Paul Steyn outlines the issues on the National Geographic website. The site of the proposed mine is outlined in red below.
According to Lusaka Times, Zambezi Resources were granted a conditional 25-year licence to mine in the area marked, an area of 245 square kilometres (or 409,200 hectares). This conditional licence was issued in March 2011 on a subject to fulfilling certain conditions on an EIS (Environmental Impact Survey). Some of conditions were not met, specifically that of taking adequate measures to protect the environment; ZEMA rejected the proposal. After the inevitable appeal by Zambezi Resources, the Minister of Land, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection over-ruled their decision and approved the request in January 2014.
An injunction was successfully filed with the Zambian High Court on 31st January 2014; Zambezi Resources actively refute this claim:
It was reported on a small number of websites that an injunction was granted in Zambia on Friday 31
January 2014, effectively halting any work at site. The Company has extensively investigated this
matter and is pleased to advise that there is nothing to substantiate the claim that an injunction was
See the original document and their Zambia-targeted press release here.
Nevertheless, it seems an injunction was indeed filed. We await the outcome of this injunction; according to the Wall Street Journal, the hearing is scheduled for February 18th: next Tuesday. I suspect Zambian Resources will not take a further rejection lying down.
There is a protest site on Facebook, and a petition requesting signatures at Avaaz.org in an attempt to block the company from opening this mine. By all means, if you find the argument against the proposal convincing, please stop by these sites and add your voice.
I found a blog on the Africa Geographic website, also written by Paul Steyn and published in September 2012 which gives an interesting perspective on the company outsourced to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment.
The issue raises many questions: can a copper mine be truly ‘green’? What impact will this project have on wildlife, local families, water sources, pollution, tourism? Why is this project being supported by some of the locals, ‘farmers’ and others? What are their expectations and are they realistic? How many jobs can Zambezi Resources honestly promise will be granted to local Zambian people? If Zambezi Resources did not meet the original conditions imposed by ZEMA, and are allowed to proceed, how can Zambia guarantee they will meet their environmental responsibilities? The methods of copper mining are not traditionally a low key, environmentally friendly affair.
Furthermore, a look at pollution at current and historic mining sites in Zambia does not paint an attractive picture: the town of Kabwe has been highly polluted for years after a history of lead mining, this year Mufulira residents are concerned over sulphur dioxide emissions (see Zambia Daily Mail). The concerns for the environment as well as the health of local residents is not one that should be overlooked.
Time will tell if the ‘Powers That Be’ in Zambia will come to their senses and choose to protect this very treasured natural park as well as the health of their citizens. Meanwhile let me share a little piece of it with you.
Lower Zambezi Valley
Photo courtesy of Africa Geographic