Mwembeshi Resources Limited corporate affairs manager Oliver Shalala says people opposed to his company’s plan to start mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park must move on after the court decision to okay the project.
Mr. Shalala said that it was surprising that some non-governmental organizations, who are against mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park, have taken a militant stance on the matter.
He said instead of continuing to oppose mining in the Lower Zambezi, NGO’s must advocate for safe mining and good corporate social responsibility programmes from Mwembeshi Resources.
Featuring on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk on Friday, Mr. Shalala said Zambia needs more mining companies to meet targets of increased copper production in the next ten years.
He predicted that not even the Kafue National Park in districts like Mumbwa will be spared from mining owing to mining exploration that has already commenced.
“We need development in different sectors. The Government has set a target that in five years we should have 2, 000,000 metric of copper produced, in ten years 3,000,000. Right now we are pushing 860, 000 metric tonnes of copper mostly from FQM – the biggest producer, Mopani and the others but the numbers are not good so we cannot rump production from the current mines alone without opening new ones. I actually foresee a copper mine opening up in Kafue National Park because there has been exploration there and they actually found very good grades of copper so it is possible one day we will see a copper mine open in Mumbwa in the Kafue National Park,” Mr. Shalala said.
He said Mwembeshi Resources was committed to cooperate with stakeholders at mines in the Lower Zambezi.
“We are a growing company, we are a Zambian company and we avoid being arrogant about how we go about things. We want to have good will, we want to work with everyone. Actually we have an olive branch towards those who are opposed to the mine to have time to sit down with us because the problem has been with the militant approach where you say no mining. So when you go no mining in the Lower Zambezi and then the court decides to say no, mining goes on. What do you do?”
“You remain, the train leaves the station you remain behind, you can’t stop the train to jump on board and continue with the conversation but we still feel there is a need for a number of NGOs to be engaged with us to find out what are the plans? How are you going to design the mine? How can you mitigate this and that? What is the replenishing plan of the pits after you are done? Will there be investment in terms of game scouts to improve security in the game park and so on and so forth. That should have been more of the conversation now,” Mr. Shalala said.
Last year the PF Government approved the proposal for the Kangaluwi Open Pit Mining Project in Lower Zambezi National Park almost 20 years since an Australian-based company, Zambezi Resources Limited was granted an exploration license delayed by ZEMA’s initial rejection of the proposal, government overriding the agency and subsequent court cases which ended with the project still going ahead.
“We are a profit oriented entity and are not by nature going to improve the capacity of those who engage against us. So if we are sitting down with the local people and we are discussing corporate social responsibility programming we need people on the ground to also have the capacity to negotiate how they want things to be. Otherwise it will be top down from us going down; the NGOs should have been on the ground right now coming up with empowerment programmes, helping things to do with appraisals, research and planning so that they can affect the design and the implementation of the mine and even better also do monitoring and evaluation of how the mining goes as opposed to this militant stance,” Mr. Shalala added.
This week,the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) reaffirmed its position that there is no violation of any provisions of the constitution in the approval for mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
ZEMA submitted to the Constitutional Court that mining activities can sustainably be conducted in the Lower Zambezi National Park in line with conditions of approval as the anticipated risks can be sufficiently mitigated.
This is a matter in which environmentalist Robert Chimambo has petitioned the ConCourt to order Government to withdraw the approval for mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park by the developer, Mwembeshi Resources Limited, as it breaches the constitution.
Mr. Chimambo, who has cited the Attorney General and the ZEMA as respondents in the petition, wants the court to order them to withdraw the approval of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) dated May 7, 2021 for being in violation of the constitution.
He seeks an order that freedom of environmental information is a constitutional right.
The petitioner claimed that ZEMA approved EIS for proposed large scale mining in the said area for Mwembeshi Resources Limited without public hearings being conducted.
But ZEMA has responded that approved EIS was approved by the Minister responsible for environmental protection under section 115 of the Environmental Management Act(EMA) and it issued decision letter ZEMA /INS/101/04/1 stipulating conditions of the said approval on February 3, 2014.
“The plans referred to under article 253(1)(i) are assessed by way of a strategic environmental assessment(SEA) in accordance with section 23 of the Act and the project was not SEA. The policies, plans or programmes under Article 255(I) are assessed by way of a SEA in accordance with section 23 of the Ac and the project was not a subject of a SEA,” it stated.