The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) is concerned by media reports suggesting that the government has allowed the highly controversial open-pit mining project in Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP).
CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape says allowing the mining project to proceed based on legal technicalities would be a serious indictment to the New Dawn administration, bringing into question its commitment to environmental sustainability.
Ms. Mwape says the project is in stark contrast to, and a deviation from pronouncements and policy directions of the New Dawn Administration, espoused both locally and internationally in different media.
She has since called on the Minister of Environment and Green Economy to urgently issue a Ministerial statement on the matter.
Ms. Mwape adds that noting the stage at which the matter has reached, which seemed to have informed the Minister’s decision, CEJ further calls upon the President, His Excellency, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema to recall his past pronouncements and Zambia’s domestic legislation and various international treaties the country is a party to relevant to informing the decision process on the project.
She says a firm decision on this project is his chance to do the right thing, stand with the people, leverage political will, and practically demonstrate the country’s commitments to the environmental ethos by exercising his executive authority over the matter.
Ms Mwape says Zambia will be failing to practically demonstrate her commitment to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration should the open pit mine project proceed.
She adds that CEJ will continue to stand by ZEMA’s initial decision which rejected the Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project, citing strong, credible science for not approving the project.
She says CEJ recommends that the New Dawn government maintains its position and promise made on zero mining in lower Zambezi.
Ms Mwape says CEJ has since recommended that Government revokes both the mining license and environmental approvals given to developing the open-pit copper mine in the heart of the Lower Zambezi.
Ms Mwape says regrettably, a weakness in the attendant legislation which allows the Minister to overturn a decision by the competent authority was actively pursued resulting in the protracted controversies surrounding the project.
Ms Mwape says CEJ wants Government to review the clause in the Environmental Management Act of 2011 which empowers the Minister to overturn ZEMA’s decision when an investor appeal.