Friday, June 21, 2024

Bulldozers clear way for mine in Lower Zambezi National Park


Heavy duty noisy equipment have moved in Lower Zambezi protected national park area to clear forests and chase away animals and birds as they pave way for a planned copper mine due to open.

Excavation for the vast open cast copper mine in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park has begun. The bulldozers’ move into Zambia’s pristine wildlife sanctuary and famous tourist attraction follows a decade-long fight by activists trying to stop the mining.

The move follows an about-turn by Zambia’s government environmental agency and by President Hakainda Hichilema, who had been outspoken about being opposed to the mine. The green light given to the mining company to start clearing work has raised questions about what political leverage mine owners may have had.

Mwembeshi Resources Limited first applied for mining rights in the park in 2011 and submitted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) rejected the EIS. The mining company appealed and in 2014 the Zambian government approved the application for the Kangaluwi copper mine in south-eastern Zambia on the national park land.

Lower Zambezi is a vital part of the wider Zambezi basin, a significant shared resource that contributes to the economic, environmental and social development of southern Africa.

In 2014 the Lower Zambezi Tourism Association (LZTA) warned that the proposed mine would cost the Zambian economy billions of dollars a year in foreign investment and livelihoods. The tourism association said it would also destroy an ecosystem that is home to 124 species of animal, 403 species of birds and 54 aquatic animals. The association’s models also concluded that the mine was not viable.

“Modeling figures suggest that the project is not economically viable, will result in a net loss of jobs for local communities, and will generate a financial loss over the first seven years of operation of a minimum of US$13 million”, the report found.

“Locally, the project would risk a minimum of US$5 million of NGO investment in community development programmes that align with protected area management.

“In broader terms, there is great potential for mining inside protected areas to have a negative effect on international aid investment, upon which Zambia is heavily reliant and receives over $1 billion annually.”

This report coupled with objections and reports by a coalition of activists helped secure a court injunction to stop the mine. However, eight years later, the mine has successfully secured the right to mine.

The company has dismissed these concerns, saying that the mine is a mark of progress and job creation of which communities are in favour.

Mwembeshi Resources would not confirm or deny whether work on the mine has started.

“Your questions are so specific and you seem not to be interest(ed) in more important things about the mine, like value, jobs, benefits or the big support the mine has from the local community,” said Oliver Shalala, communications and corporate affairs manager. He added that the mine enjoys a lot of support among “black Zambians”.

“It is the white lodge owners, who have been known to be involved in illegal mining and poaching in the Lower Zambezi, who are fighting the mine based on untruths, half-truths and indeed wrong assumptions,” he charged.

Shalala is adamant that anyone opposed to the project or writing about it is just wasting their time “because Zambia needs development and not politicking”.

Stephen Malenga, the council secretary for Luangwa district where the mine is located, confirmed to MakanDay that work, including on the roads, has started.

“In April, I sent a team responsible for revenue collection (at the council) to Lower Zambezi to establish facts about the mine after hearing reports that it was operational,” he said.

“What they found was that the roads are being worked on and office blocks were being constructed but they were not completed, an airstrip has also been constructed at the mine.”

A decade-long fight turns into a sinkhole

The proposed mine is an open-pit mine which involves the excavation of a large open hole or a series of pits. These are gradually deepened and expanded to extract the desired mineral – in this case, copper.

Open-pit mining typically involves the use of heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, excavators and trucks to remove overlying material and expose the mineral deposit. Storage facilities are used to store the waste materials generated from mining operations, called tailings. These waste materials, including dangerous chemicals, are stored in dams constructed near mining sites. Any leaks or faults would threaten the entire ecosystem.

In 2011, when the mine first applied for a licence to operate in the area, activists warned about the threat of permanently damaging a significant portion of the park. Although it is not clear how big the mine area will be, the Environmental Impact Assessment explains how the main construction phase activities include road construction, site clearance, earthworks, open pit excavation and construction of the concentrator plant. Other work includes building a tailings storage facility, water storage tanks and fencing.

When the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) rejected the EIS in 2012, the environmental agency’s technical experts flagged degradation of the escarpment habitat, wilderness values and river pollution as key concerns on along list of potential adverse impacts.

ZEMA stated that the the mine would “destroy the landscape of the park”. It also warned that the proposed tailings storage facilities were “risky” and the “chances of failure are high”.

Two years after ZEMA rejected the mine’s EIS, Zambia’s then minister of lands, Harry Kalaba, approved the project. It was stopped by the court injunction, and Hichilema, who was in the opposition at the time, made his objection to mining in the national park clear on social media, in 2014 and again in 2019.

In 2021, ZEMA changed its mind and approved the mining company’s EIS it had rejected in 2012. The EIS expired in 2021. A coalition of environmental activists, the Conservation Advocates Zambia (CAZ), approached the courts to reverse ZEMA’s approval but Zambia’s Court of Appeal dismissed the case in February 2021. In addition to the Kangaluwi open-pit site, the EIS outlines how operations are likely to be undertaken at three satellite sites – Kalulu, Chisawa and Imboo.

CAZ also asked ZEMA to review its decision and, after getting no response they applied to the High Court asking for a judicial review of ZEMA’s decision to approve the expired EIS which it had initially rejected. This hearing has was adjourned twice before grinding to a halt on 30 March this year when ZEMA said it had “no authority” to review its own decision.

On 27 April, CAZ sent a plea to Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Collins Nzovu, to stop all activities related to the mining operation. He has not yet responded.

Aside from unanswered questions about whether there was any political influence exerted to approve the project, the events have also raised questions about President Hichilema’s “new deal” commitment to protect and conserve the country’s treasured forests and national parks.

Mine ownership

The mine is owned by a Zambian registered Mwembeshi Resources Limited. Mwembeshi Resources (Bermuda) is the largest shareholder and the company is owned by a Chinese conglomerate (the majority owned by Hu Kaijun and Chinese government stakeholders). Other companies that hold shares include Metex Resources Limited and Amazon Associates Limited.

There are also Individual shareholders in Mwembeshi Resources, and they include Stephen Mulenga, Willie Rutherlain Sweta, Hyden Hara, Pengani Yangailo, and an Austrian – Marinko Vidovic, according to the Patents and Companies Registration Agency records.

Weak legal framework

While the Mines and Minerals Development Act (2008) and the Zambia Wildlife Act (1998) allow for mining inside national parks, there is no policy or legal framework to guide implementation, monitoring and mitigation of impacts such as ensuring full site rehabilitation as is outlined by the Mines and Mineral Resources Development Act.

Section 80 of this Act prescribes “the rehabilitation, levelling, re-grassing, reforesting or contouring of such part of the land over which the right or licence has effect as may have been damaged or adversely affected by exploration operations, mining operations or mineral processing operations; and(d) the filling in, sealing or fencing of excavations, shafts and tunnels”.

Source: Makanday Centre for Investigative Journalism


    • 1. If HH was an American politician, he would be in the Republic Party or The GOP – short for the “Grand Old Party”. The GOP’s ideology is taxing the rich far less; and tax the poor more. They believe that if you tax less the rich, they reinvest capital in the economy, which has no linear proof historically , cause they don’t; but just go and buy expensive houses, private jets, houses, keep appearances and stay in the league of the top list of rich people.

    • 2. HH had his hand on fertilizer deal & scandal. He offered his other friends as middle-men to export electricity at the expense of load shedding and stagnating our small-scale businesses that need electricity to survive. The Zambezi Mining is all smeared with dirty laundry, a reason why is so scared to address the nation about it.

    • 3. In the last 110 years, the US economy has done well under the Democrat’s and the numbers are there to see. Bill Clinton cleaned up the mess Reagan & Bush Senior left behind. Obama reversed the economy & cleaned the mess Bush Junior left behind. Biden has reversed the mess Trump left behind. HH believes in giving incentives to the rich and` screwing the poor. He grabbed the land from the poor in southern province a few years ago. He failed to address the plight of poor and especially the youth at he press conference.

  1. In the end white investors will leave Zambia a carcass of holes dug for the minerals Zambians never see. Our children will ask what happened and the parents will explain “these holes we now call home were made by the capitalists who came from Europe to dig for our copper”

    • I think you mean Chinese investors – “owned by a Chinese conglomerate (the majority owned by Hu Kaijun and Chinese government stakeholders” who are in cahoots with bigwigs in the Zambian government.

      But otherwise I agree with your statement and agree its terrible for Zambian people and the environment.

    • I can read but my reference “these holes” is to the many shafts in the country not only to this HH owned mine. Yes HH has shares in this mine so has that Mikalile guy who is fronting it and so have the Australians. That s how business is done nowadays

    • Kulibonesha read the story it said Austrian not Australian, just like it said its Chinaman owed, better go back to school and learn to read and maybe go to Specksavers and buy some glasses.

    • Cosmos stop reading only from Lusaka Times. Zambezi resources Ltd who have been exploring for copper in lower Zambezi since 1998 is an Australian company. It has a Zambian subsidiary called Mwembeshi Resources fronted by Mikalile. There may be an Austrian having shares in it so what? What difference does it make: Austrians and Australians are both from Europe. Stop nitpicking and wanting to look like a smart alec PHd just by reading one website

  2. And Most of the upnd *****s were saying Bally will be the difference. Mwamona ba swine..Kutumpa uku.

  3. “The green light given to the mining company to start clearing work has raised questions about what political leverage mine owners may have had.”
    SHOULD READ: “The green light given to the mining company to start clearing work should raise questions about which politicians have been bribed”

  4. I wonder why people take this so called, Bally, seriously. The man is a liar. These are his policies behind peoples’ backs. He will still remain the most deceptive leader Zambia will ever have. For him to ascend to the throne, he lied and has continued on the same trajectory of lies. Unfortunately, he hold a big position in the land and has continued lies after lies.

  5. Is that why that presidential press conference was rushed ???

    To avoid awkward questions if the public had known about this ????

    • This was already given the go ahead by the court last year, he wouldnt worry about this he is already in govt everything he said about this was mere sweet talk and campiagning…when conservationists were telling you what is going to happen to the beautiful park you just looked at them blankily!!

  6. This is what we meant when we said they will sell everything including the animals, rivers and lizards. We leave it in God’s hands to punish those with other ideas.

    • This is the problem with Africans everything it ..let’s pray and leave it God’s could have stopped all this but greedy short sighted politicans have sold you out like they did during slavery and you are still praying!!

    • When you leave something in others hands you can be sure that you will be screwed. Africa needs to GET RID OF RELIGION in order to move forward.

  7. A road to the mine will be constructed faster than the Mufulira Mokambo pedicle road. Faster than it takes to repair the Nakonde-Mpika road

  8. Oliver shalala you s****d c**t don’t make this into a racial issue between whites and blacks just because of the good wage you are getting from this exploiters. This about the whole eco system, animals lives , flora and fauna of the environment that belongs to all zambians and not just to the people of lower zambezi whom you have bribed with your trinkets. What are you going to tell your grand children when they ask you about things they can only see pictures of in books. Who gives you the right to take away a living things habitat just because you want to get rich.

    • Oliver shalala is a Communications and Corporate Affairs professional who is good at what he does…just like a lawyer he was not going to turn down this job opportunity when he was freelancing. You want to blame him when the politicans already did the dirty work and are walking freely like nothing happened.

    • Yes who started it …but Hakainde could have crashed all this with just political will…which investor would pump money in country where the govt of the day does not want them? Its the same with Forest 27.

  9. We have lost as a people…its sad indeed anyway HH has a capitalist mindset all he cares about is money and would never let down his white masters. Zambia does not have the capability to oversee that this investor is doing everything by the book just look at KCM how its polluted the Kafue River. Revisit this area in 10 years and all the animals will be gone.

  10. Hh giving away our land and resources to his gay westerners. At least ifwe under pf we ensured that Zambians benefited from our resources. I would rather have a corrupt president who shares his wealth and that of the nation with the indigenous citizens rather than a president like hh who pretends to be clean but is giving away our land and resources to western imperialists. We warned you

    • Politicians are evil indeed. In his theory Marx envisaged a state past Communism called Utopia. In which people dont need politicians to rule over them. No police no authority just free men and women. Zzzzzxx let me just go to bed

  11. Change of colors from green to red…nothing really has changed…..we moving backwards and now destroying our natural resources and environment…..the Western world is on a rampage they want to destroy Africa with the help of our Puppet greedy Politicians…HH is such a disgrace

    • Western world no , read the story its the Chinaman wake up, they have no respect for anything, look how they treat Zambian workers

    • @Cosmos: Why are you so intent on stressing it’s the Chinese? Are you some house negro who quarrels with the neighbors insisting my master is better than yours?

  12. This is disgusting and disgraceful. Really seriously. This Hakainde disparaged KK in front of Kamala Harris, and now, he is defiling one of KK’s last remaining crown jewels.

  13. We told you the kind of president you were electing. You did not listen. HH is a privatization thief and will remain a privatization thief until Zambians grow a brain.

    • The poaching deals to get rich threatens the existence of national parks in Zambia. This can be scandalous to our economy.

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