Lower Zambezi mining decision: Zambia’s poor investor compliance history keeps repeating itself
By Grandy Ntumbo
The Zambian economy has yet again been fraught with yet another mining investor controversy following the Zambian Government’s recent decision to grant a mining licence and Zambia Environmental Management Agency’s (ZEMA) to grant a go-ahead for the Lower Zambezi National Park open-pit mining project to proceed.
Essentially, this project is known as the Kangaluwi Copper Project owned by Mwembeshi Resources Limited. In the recent past two weeks, I came across a Worldwide Fund for nature (WWF) Zambia Facebook post entitled “Halt mining in Lower Zambezi.” I quickly recalled that only less than six months ago WWF Zambia country director Nachilala Nkombo had assured me that one of the new dawn government ministers had assured her that the lower Zambezi mining project would not proceed. I therefore immediately called her to find out what WWF Zambia advocacy post on the organisation’s Facebook page was all about and what had changed since our conversation a few months.
Indeed, in the last two years, I have found myself increasingly passionate about Zambia’s tourism-led economic growth. I also subscribe to Zambia’s agenda to foster climate smart industrialisation and economic growth. From my very early childhood, I have always supported wildlife and nature conservation in Zambia and in the last two years I have found myself supporting the WWF Zambia through various ways including advocacy to support Zambia’s agenda to foster a tourism-led economic growth.
Following my conservation with Ms Nkombo, I had to immediately get in touch with researchers and legal minds connected to the ongoing litigation between stakeholders and Mwembeshi Resources Limited regarding the Lower Zambezi mining project. In the next two weeks, this platform will endeavour to delve into what has transpired from the time ZEMA gave a go-ahead for Mwembeshi Resources Limited to commence mining operations in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
From 8 March 2022, I published two articles in the Times of Zambia entitled “How Lower Zambezi mining project decision affects Zambia’s long term sustainability” and “Effects of Lower Zambezi mining decision on Zambia’s tourism, national economic strategic management”. For this discourse I would like to recap an overview of the above articles to provide readers, particularly this publication’s new readers and followers a background of one of Zambia’s mining and investor controversies in decades.
Remarkably, I have personally examined correspondences, documents, and so forth between all concerned parties, pertaining to the Kangaluwi mining project. From these correspondences, it is apparent that Mwembeshi Resources Limited has not complied with ZEMA conditions of carrying out mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park. For now, let’s leave this for the ‘main meal’ next week so that we delve into the background as earlier alluded to.
1st February 2022, I stumbled into a petition by the large coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), traditional leaders, artists, safari operators and other stakeholders to Republican President Hakainde Hichilema to honour his campaign promise to protect the Lower Zambezi National Park, and halt a controversial open-pit copper mine. This furore follows the Zambian Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss an appeal by civil society organisations against the proposed large scale open-pit mining project that has been raging for a number of years now.
Following on media reports dating 31st January 2022, they reveal that the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment indicated that the controversial project will proceed under strict adherence to measures set by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.
Environment minister Collins Nzovu said the measures were aimed at limiting damage to the environment to a minimum. Earlier on, then presidential spokesperson Anthony Bwalya was reported as having said that government would guide on the future of the open-pit mining project in Lower Zambezi National Park at an appropriate time.
“All due processes of the law and any other additional due diligence requirements will and shall be respected and carried out before the new administration can guide on the future of the said project,” Mr Bwalya said.
What was the genesis of the Kangaluwi copper project in the Lower Zambezi National Park by Mwembeshi Resources Limited? What is the bone of contention by CSOs, are they just making noise? Are they justifiable? Let’s carefully look at the ministerial statement on the status of Kangaluwi Copper Project in Lower Zambezi National Park by then minister of Mines and Minerals Development Richard Musukwa on 17th October, 2019. This statement provides an in-depth insight into the quagmire, the ‘skeletons’, processes, legalities and where Mwembeshi Resources Limited faulted A to Z of it!
“Mr Speaker, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to inform this August House and the nation at large, on the status of the proposed large-scale mining project known as the Kangaluwi Copper Project in the Lower Zambezi National Park by Mwembeshi Resources Limited following the ruling of the High Court of Zambia, delivered on 17th October, 2019. Sir, I will begin by giving a background to the licence before proceeding to give the position of the Government on the project.
Mr Speaker, the Kangaluwi Copper Project started during the reign of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) Government with a grant of a large-scale prospecting licence on 18th December, 2003 to Mwembeshi Resources Limited, a subsidiary of an Austrian Stock Exchange Listed Company called the Zambezi Resources Limited, which is now called, Trek Metals Limited.
Sir, the licence was granted under the Mines and Minerals Act of 1995. The company commenced prospecting after the approval of the environmental project brief report by the then Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ), now the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).
Mr Speaker, Mwembeshi Resources Limited applied for a large-scale mining licence following the completion of the prospecting works and was granted a large-scale mining licence on 16th March, 2011 by the then Minister of Mines and Minerals Development, Hon. Maxwell Mwale for a period of twenty-five years, in accordance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act Development No. 7 of 2008. However, the project could not proceed with the mine development because the environmental and social impact assessment had not been approved by ZEMA.
The issuance of the mining licence was done without the prior clearance from ZEMA, but was conditioned on Mwembeshi Resources Limited obtaining authorisation from ZEMA prior to commencement of the mining operations.
Sir, on 14th March, 2012, Mwembeshi Resources Limited submitted an environmental and social impact assessment report for the proposed Kangaluwi Copper Project to ZEMA, which was rejected. Mr Speaker, on 19th September, 2012, Mwembeshi Resources Limited appealed against the decision of ZEMA to the then hon. Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Hon. Harry Kalaba, in accordance with the provision of the Environment Management Act No. 12 of 2011. On 17th January, 2014, and in exercise of the powers vested in the ministry under the Environmental Management Act No. 12, the hon. Minister revised the decision of ZEMA and approved the project.
Mr Speaker, the House may wish to know that according to the Environmental Management Act as read together with the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations, Statutory Instrument No. 28 of 1997, and as contained in Condition 3.4 of the decision letter of 4th February, 2014, Mwembeshi Resources Limited was required to commence implementation of the project within three years from the date of approval. Failure to commence a project in the required timeframe rendered the authorisation granted to Mwembeshi Resources Limited invalid and therefore, Mwembeshi Resources Limited is required to resubmit the environmental and social impact assessment report to ZEMA for consideration.
The decision letter for Mwembeshi Resources Limited expired on 4th February, 2017. The decision letter for Mwembeshi Resources Limited expired on 4th February, 2017.
Sir, notwithstanding the High Court ruling, mining activities will not proceed because in accordance with the Environmental Management Act, Mwembeshi Resources Limited was required to commence the implementation of the project within three years from the date of approval. The company’s failure to commence the project within the required timeframe rendered the authorisation invalid. Therefore, Mwembeshi Resources Limited is now required to resubmit the environmental and social impact assessment report for consideration by the Minister of Tourism and Arts.
Mr Speaker, it is through these processes that the project in the Lower Zambezi National Park will be assessed to determine whether to proceed or not. Therefore, Mwembeshi Resources Limited is required to obtain approval from the Honourable Ministers responsible for national parks and wildlife and the environment. Further, the company should obtain consent from the source right holders, where necessary, as enshrined in the Mines and Minerals Act.”
The author is managing consultant at G. N Grant Business Consultant, a Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) holder with specialism in Strategic Planning, and a candidate for the Herriot Watt University (Scotland) Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). Send feedback to: [email protected], Mobile +260-977-403113, +260-955-403113.
You aint seen nothing yet
You mean this has been okayed? I honestly was hoping that commonsense was going to prevail. Jair Bosenaro the former president of Brazil would also have approved. I have been to lower Zambezi. It’s a small place with not much room for wild animals to roam freely in. There’s very little natural grass, especially during the dry season.
The map doesn’t show the exact position of the mine and its extent. Those opposed to the project, who are mainly foreign tour operators have failed to demonstrate how the benefits of maintaining the status quo outweighs those of mining activities. There are some who say the portion of the mine is insignificant compared to the whole park. There are even traditional leaders that support the mine and their reason is that they haven’t seen any benefits from tourism operators. There have been campaigns against the project abroad and that in itself puts questions as to what the motive is. It seems this campaign is for narrow selfish interests of tourism operators who have been accused of illegal gemstone mining in the area. So if you wish us to support you, please address these matters.
This was one of upnd pledges and yet they have renegaded on their promise. On this the upnd has failed us including all the flora and fauna in the lower zambezi.
WHO SAID THIS WAS GOING AHEAD !!!
STORIES ABOUND IN THIS COUNTRY NOW PURELY BY FRUSTRATED PARTIES
We need more Managers in Government and less Politicians…if this has been okayed them am very very disappointed with HH
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