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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Kangaluwi mine- an environmental dilemma where everyone is right

Columns Kangaluwi mine- an environmental dilemma where everyone is right

The Unspoilt Lower Zambezi National Park
The Unspoilt Lower Zambezi National Park- however new mine coming soon

By Mbinji Mufalo

Extract, destroy and leave rich

I have overtime kept away from commenting on environmental issues. More so, because of the time in the 1990s when World Bank-likes moved into the territory. They had an unnerving “economics, free-market and technology will fix it all” attitude. The arguments of simply preserving or conserving our environment more on its life-support attributes, and indeed the celestial aesthetic appeal of its wilderness went out through the window. Their belief always seemed to be one of “we can always eat a piece of the earth for economic development, but we will eat it nicely”.

“The people will benefit, the environment will benefit”. It was and still is a valid argument, I must admit. But, we forget, like Mahatma Gandhi observes – “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”. Thus, in a developing country context like ours, the degradation of the environment on the premise of enhanced economic development has in most cases neither benefitted the people nor the environment. In any case, there is now grounded knowledge that it is not those that allow more extraction from the earth that develops the most. It is those that come and extract, destroy and leave rich.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed

The fact is always that those that come to extract, destroy and leave rich do not come yielding guns or drones. They come because we allow them in the name of seeking economic development. They dangle a nicely ripe banana that we believe will quench our hungry and deprived, and we jubilantly pontificate the necessity of their investment. We even parade deprived traditional leaders to launder the argument clean. But, then some State oversight agencies and other interest groups rise up and dissent. “Even if it’s in the name economic development, this piece of the earth can never be eaten nicely”. “It is in a game park”.

they dangle a nicely ripe banana that we believe will quench our hungry and deprived

Well, the Kangaluwi Copper Project in the Lower Zambezi National Park keeled me back into the environmental discourse after nearly a decade.

The Legal Confusion

In my further reading to understand what it was all about, two statements interested me.

The first is what I came across in Kangaluwi Copper Project, Mwembeshi Resources Ltd, Environmental Impact Assessment of February 2012. The Kangaluwi Project already had a large scale mining license – No 15547-HQ-LML! And this is where the legal confusion starts.

In section 25 of the Mines and Minerals Development Act, 2008 a large scale mining licence can be granted, but with an attendant environmental management plan (subsection 1(e); and that the “applicant’s environmental management plan conforms to specifications and practices established by national standards for the management of the environment as it is affected by mining operations (section 26(1)(d))”.

Further, if we read this with section 127 (1)(h) it provides that “a holder of a licence or permit shall not exercise any rights under this Act or the licence or permit upon any land comprised in a National Park or game management area without complying with the Zambia Wildlife Act”. This is corroborated by section 24(2) of the Zambia Wildlife Act 1998 which stipulates that “the Authority may impose conditions as to the exercise of any mining rights in accordance with the measures specified under an environmental impact assessment[1] approved by the Environmental Council (now Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA))”.

Put simply. I want to dig a hole for copper in a national park. So I go to Mines department, there they give me a license, but they tell me I should do an EIA approved by ZEMA; and get permission from Wildlife department, who will also tell me I need an EIS approved by ZEMA. I do that, but ZEMA disapproves, yet I still have my license. But now I cannot start my mine development. I am seriously confused! Why did you grant me the license when surely you should know that ZEMA and ZAWA will refuse simply because it is in a national park?

Anyway, since the green light from ZEMA is paramount to the exercise of the mining rights the license provides, does the license have no legal force? Can we surmise that the Mwembeshi Resources Ltd large scale mining licence No 15547-HQ-LML, is just a piece of paper?

No, it is not just a piece of paper. It has an inherent power of appeal to authorities higher than ZEMA. The Environmental Management Act, 2011, in section 116(1) provides that, “a person aggrieved with the decision of the Agency may appeal to the Minister within thirty days of the decision; (2) A person aggrieved with the decision of the Minister may appeal to the High Court within thirty days of the decision”.

And this happened when on September 19, 2012, Mwembeshi Resources appealed to the Minister (Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection) against the decision of ZEMA not to permit the development as provided in the Decision Letter of September 5, 2012. Mwembeshi Resources’ appeal was upheld by the Minister on January 17, 2014.

Thus ultimately, in all these legal provisions that permits or does not permit mining development, not only in a national park, the final decision maker is a political entity or the Courts of Law. But this is not to say ZEMA’s decision[2] is not respected, it is but it should be founded on strong arguments against a particular development. Political decisions are more often about perceived economic development gains, than environmental protection. It is only when environmental protection arguments are meaningful, that they can influence political decisions.

Perhaps, this where the main actor in this debate, ZEMA, lost the environment!

News media evidence so far shows that ZAWA had concerns; such concerns were appropriately provided to ZEMA as per legal requirements.

In addition, ZAWA in its position paper of April 2013 observes:

“It is the strong position of ZAWA that Mining should not be allowed in the Lower Zambezi National Park. The General Management Plan (GMP) for Lower Zambezi National Park approved by the then Permanent Secretary MTENR Mr. J. C. Kasongo on 1st November 2001 and ratified by the Minister, Honorable M. M. Mabenga, MP did not provide for mining operations in the area which was zoned as a Wilderness Zone”.

ZAWA can be absolved of any failings for as stakeholders they did their part. But can ZEMA be absolved?

How Mwembeshi Resources where able to rebut ZEMA’s arguments

And this brings me to the second statement.

“The proposed site is not suitable for the nature of the project because it is located in the middle of a national park thus intends to compromise the ecological value of the park as well as the ecosystem,” – Ms Chipili (Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) public relations officer)[3].

I found this statement unfortunate and legally ill-informed. This statement has no legal basis as Kangaluwi Copper Project’s Large Scale Mining License 15547-HQ-LML is valid, as shown earlier. Mineral rights reign supreme in a national park, though conditional.

Noteworthy, however is that, ZEMA rejected the Kangaluwi Copper Project EIS on five other issues, not simply “because it is located in the middle of a national park”.

On location of the mine in a National Park, ZEMA’s concerns were that:

“ The proposed site is not suitable for the nature of the project since it is located in the middle of a national park;
The adverse impact of open pit mining would therefore permanently destroy the landscape of the park, thereby reducing the tourism value of the Lower Zambezi National Park;
Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the four major national parks according to ZAWA which earns the country a lot of money”[4].

Unfortunately, I must admit Mwembeshi Resources rebutted these concerns very well. On the first (like noted earlier), they were on firm legal ground. On the second and third, especially on the tourism value of the park, perhaps ZEMA should never even have raised this.

Mwembeshi Resources observes,

“Tourism in the Lower Zambezi National Park contributed approximately US$600,000 revenues in 2011 (ZAWA Annual Report for the LZNP, 2011). This value is substantially less than the total foreign direct investment to be made by Mwembeshi Resources Ltd, which will exceed US$495 million.”[5]

Ecological resource exploitation for aesthetic value or ecological protection for ecosystem integrity can never compete with expected or projected economic returns from mineral extraction. Mines have a higher socio-economic multiplier effect (though not sustainable in the long term) than tourism based economic activities.

At face value the socio-economic returns from a mining development are always extremely enticing. The nicely ripe banana that we believe will quench our hungry and deprived – direct and indirect employment opportunities, increased socio-amenities, local business opportunities, and indeed the biggest catch of them all, increased revenue to the State!

But, the figures on contribution to domestic revenue tell a different story.

“Copper is Zambia’s most important export, making up 75% of its export revenue. However, despite all this, copper mining only contributes 2% to Zambia’s domestic revenue.”[6]

The Laws need to be changed

Notwithstanding the foregoing, ZEMA has a legitimate question on the location of Kangaluwi, even if not legally valid or not economically sound. Perhaps it is time environmental protection lobby groups (and ZEMA), also started focusing their energies on reviewing the laws. A national park is a pristine area, a celestially aesthetic wilderness. It’s a heritage! No law should allow its rape and defilement. Period.

Thus, I here argue that, this is one environmental battle that should go beyond Kangaluwi. We hope the laws that allow such development acts like the Kangaluwi Copper Mine project can be found inconsistent with environmental protection for ecosystem integrity, and thus are invalid. National parks should all simply be declared as Environmentally Protected Areas. Perhaps, we can amend the Protected Places and Areas Act CAP 125, to include National Parks (Just a digression)!

ZEMA’s other concerns were on:

  1. Treatment of Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) -possible damage to TSF due to seismic activity, possibility of effluent from TSF reaching major rivers in the event of catastrophic failure;
  2. TSF failure and location adjacent to Mana Pools – that is, likely tailings impact on Mana Pools from TSF failure;
  3. Acid rock drainage – this issue and consequently the metal leaching has not been addressed;
  4. Infrastructure would compromise the ecology – “The footprint of the mine would increase when the road is widened and the power line is constructed. The integrity of the national park will therefore be compromised and in the long-term the ecological value would be affected”; and,
  5. Contradictions in life of mine contained in the EIS.

Further concerns during the appeal hearing of June 7, 2013 were likelihood of groundwater aquifer pollution and, wildlife and wildlife movements.

Mwembeshi Resources again ably responded to these technical concerns and issues, but perhaps for the response to seismic activity. Mwembeshi Resources observes that “the proposed area of the mine and the TSF is within the Zambezi escarpment, this area is considered to be seismically inactive”. And in the same breath they do acknowledge the likelihood of tremors. Precaution is needed as even Dumisani (2001) observes that the Deka fault zone and the mid-Zambezi basin show high seismic activity[7].

The core defense of Mwembeshi Resources is clearly that environmental impacts due to development are always likely as any human development process is ecologically permissible, and that technological fixes can minimize the likely impacts.

In the same vein, even the Joint UNESCO World Heritage Centre/IUCN Mission Report Reactive Monitoring Mission Mana Pools (2011), observes the following:

“The mission recommends that regulations related to mining in ZAWA managed areas (GMA and NP) should be complied with and the compliance monitored by ZAWA and special regulations and requirements developed to ensure that overburden and drainage from the mine activities can, in no way, enter the drainage systems that lead to the Zambezi River. Further the Zambezi River waters should be monitored at strategic points to ensure that any appearances of pollutants related to the mining operations are detected and the mining operations charged with removing same and the sources thereof.”[8]

There is nothing wrong with this, as the core objective of an EIA is just that. An EIA does not seek to stop development, but to guide it in a manner that environmental damage can be avoided or reduced so as to ensure that development projects and their benefits are sustainable. An EIA is in the ambit of development, not outside it.

Mwembeshi Resources are legally right and legitimately wrong

Clearly, in my opinion so far, there is no substantive argument provided that the intended technological fixes cannot minimize the likely impacts from Kangaluwi Copper Project, nor that the socio-economic benefits are a fallacy. Perhaps, this is where the Minister and Mwembeshi Resources are right.

But they are also very wrong, and ZEMA and environmental protection interest groups are right. Though, legally they are wrong!

ZEMA is not simply a question of the legality of environmental protection but more so its legitimacy. This is because environmental protection is not solely a legal question. It is more a question of legitimacy. The act of mining right in the middle of a National Park (a national heritage), irrespective of the technological fixes, can never be ecologically legitimate. In hindsight, perhaps we should accept that an EIA request for a mining development in a national park should not even arise. The laws have to be reviewed and amended accordingly.

In other words, “we cannot always eat a piece of the earth for economic development, if the law allows, especially if eating that piece of the earth is not publicly perceived to be fundamental and acceptable as it does not enhance the integrity of ecosystems and indeed the social well being of the hungry and deprived in the longer term.”


In conclusion and undoubtedly, for me the Kangaluwi Copper Project is a NO. National Parks are more a question of the legitimacy of environmental protection for ecosystem integrity, than the fulfillment of EIA legal requirements for resource exploitation.

Like the Chinese say, “the frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives”.

Ora pro nobis.

End script: Comments on errors of fact are most welcome.

[1] Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a comprehensive document that reports the findings of the EIA.
[2] Note that ZEMA’s decisions are also founded on stakeholder concerns.
[3] ZEMA rejects Australia’s mining firm proposal to develop a $494m copper mine in the National Park (September 12, 2013; http://www.lusakatimes.com/2012/09/13/zema-rejects-australias-mining-firm-proposal-develop-494m-copper-national-park/
[4] Mwembeshi Resources appeal letter of September 19, 2012
[5] op cit.
[6] Lusaka Times, July 22, 2011, ‘Mining Sector contributing less than 2% of domestic revenue-ZCTU (as extracted from Das and Rose, (2014). Copper Colonialism – Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia. Foil Vedanta.
[7] Dumisani, J.H. (2001). Seismotectonics of Zimbabwe. African Journal of Science and Technology (AJST), Vol. 1, No.4, pp. 22-28.
[8] Mission Report Reactive Monitoring Mission Mana Pools, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas (Zimbabwe), 9-15 January 2011

Source :Kangaluwi- an environmental dilemma where everyone is right


  1. A well thought out argument with a good conclusion. One point missed in economic terms: the LZNP earns ZAWA $600,000 per year, this is ZAWA only and I suspect there are much higher figures in terms of amounts generated to local communities and businesses. the lifetime of this revenue generation is infinate and if well managed is likely to grow. One wonders how much of the $495m Mwambeshi cites will go towards high cost machinery manufactured outside Zambia, fuel, infrastructure etc that is most definately finite! All modrn mining is high tech and low human input. i am sure Mwambeshi resources will employ high number of locals in early stages to appease Chiefs and GRZ but it will not last long.

    • Well put Craig, the point that angers me is that “Mwembeshi were able to rebuff the amount of money tourism is earning for the area” and spouted a huge figure that was supposed to impress us. Given the situation on the copperbelt where all local citizen are benefiting is the polluted air and water while the fat cats in the villages of Switzerland enjoy lavish styles, how do they expect us to believe them?

    • the money they intend to bring in is a lot on face value, but what they will take out for good, please note for good here, is a lot and we shall be left to due with radio waste which we have no capacity to tackle at all.

  2. I wont go into long winding explanations, as have already done this during the past weeks.
    Most of us doubt the sincerity of 1. Mining Firms, as they’ve NEVER had a good track record especially i. Developing Nations, & only serve the Interests of the Wealthy share holders.
    2. I for one seriously doubts the Sincerity of our P.F, Government, as all they serve is more Money in their (Politicians) own Pockets. I will give one example here. Not so long ago, there was an outcry by concerned Citizens, Tha the former Defence Minister was involved in Corrupt practices – “Zesco pole saga”, thereby depriving Zambia’s development. Our P.F Government went through the motions conned the people, using their State tool – the Sterile Anti Corrupt commission, & the verdict following “…

  3. (continued)
    . the sham investigation was, “HEY PRESTO”- No Corruption had ever taken place”. What has changed since G.B.M, left the “Coven of Crooks”??. Are these the people we can trust to tell the whole ethical truth about this Dodgy Mine proposal??
    I Seriously have my Doubts.
    If this Mine Goes ahead, all that will happen is, P.F, Politicians will get STINKING RICH, whilst Zambians will be left Poorer, Unhealthier, with a Toxic hole in the ground, where no Animal or Plant life can thrive.

  4. More rational & well constructed arguments Bwana Mbinji Mufalo! Unlike the Manning chap who was complaining about a tar road to Luangwa & boasting about his having frustrated Protea from building a tourist facility/ convention centre in LZNP. Its like he doesn’t want competition for their very expensive safari camps & will everything to frustrate formidable competitors. Having said that I would rather leave the conclusion of this matter to the local people. They know what is good for themselves and their heritage ( wildlife & land & now copper).

  5. Thanks for taking time to research and inform us. I think the conclusion sums it all – NO. I have been privileged to see the Lower Zambezi NP twice. It’s indeed pristine and boasts of the big four – lion, elephant, buffalo & leopard. We can’t afford to auction our NP to greedy investors who are always enriching their countries of origin. NO!

  6. Thanks for the well articulated article. My thoughts are that, there is a serious need to repeal the laws. A mining license should be treated like a driving license (for lack of a better term), while the mining rights should only be given specifically for approved locations to a mining license holder, who meets the set out conditions of the relevant authorities.

  7. The World Bank with its fellows, the Cooperating Partners of Zambia pose a serious danger to the environment and the integrity of customary lands – let alone the debt problem. The World Bank’s mantra, ‘The world economy needs ever-increasing amounts of energy to sustain economic growth, raise living standards, and reduce poverty’ – is their standard market-lead answer to everything. The bank, under its myopic president, Jim Kim – the WB a member of the Cooperating Partner group of Zambia’s donor-aid nations – believes hydropower will assuage poverty, and that they were wrong years ago to be so worried about ‘communities and ecosystems’. The Zambian government agrees. And who is the hydro-power for, the mines, and what do they produce – apart from devastation and a therefore massive…

  8. What is needed is credible national land use plan where zones for various allowable uses are stipulated and engraved in stone. If minerals are discovered in an area that does not include mining as an allowable use: No mining. End of the story.

  9. See how clever a white man is and how he wants to blindfold us! Comparing US$600,000 of revenue to ZAWA and their US$495 million investment is like comparing apples and oranges.

    The $600,000.00 is cash in Zambia’s pocket. It’s a bird in hand, while the US$495 million are 200 birds in a tree. None of those millions will appear on Zambia’s balance sheet. If anything, the same whiteman will use that figure as an argument to request for a tax holiday, and pay no taxes to the government.

    But what is that investment? Is it not equipment they will bring to use in extracting our minerals for free? Who is the real beneficiary of the $425 million, if not the same white man? They are going to destroy our asset on our books, a national park and give us nothing in return.

  10. “In hindsight, perhaps we should accept that an EIA request for a mining development in a national park should not even arise”. Yes, I strongly agree. These government agencies have continued to work in isolation. A mining license is issued for mining operations in national park; ZEMA and ZAWA rejects mining in a national park. If the issuer of the mining license outrightly rejected the proposal to mine in a national park, we couldn’t have ended like this. I support the NO MINING IN LZNP.

  11. It’s with much consternation that I note the low and slow responses to this so very outstanding article, indisputably the best, well-researched, professionally articulated and fairly comprehensive on this topic so far. Why is this so?

    The author, Mbinji Mufalo, is an accomplished scholar. This article, probably one of the best, in terms of it’s literally quality, to have ever graced the pages of LT. How then may we explain this noticeably scanty patronage, for an article so magnanimous and on a subject so explosive only a couple of days ago?

    Here is why. Though a talented writer, the author is a poor salesman. The article title is too stale for the non-scholarly LT audience he is writing to. A more colourful, flamboyant or controversial title would have done the trick.

    • @amukwelyanisa. Many thanks, we will try and take you advice next time. Even among my academic peers, the name “Kangaluwi” did not sound familiar. But I guess we should also simply accept that we have a poor reading culture.

    • @Mbinji Mufalo: I concur. The aspect of a ‘poor reading culture’ makes all the more pertinent for the writer to even be more shrewd, much like the fishermen in the sea of Galilee, who have to resort to fishing at night, in order to hope for a catch since the body of water there is simply too clear for day-time fishing!

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