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SarWatch Writer
Revoke Lower Zambezi mine licence, demands Lange

THE Southern Africa Resource Watch has appealed for an advanced political intervention in the matter where a mining project is about to start in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Meanwhile, over 9,000 Zambians have signed the “No mining NOW or EVER in the Lower Zambezi National Park” petition.

Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) governance, research and advocacy officer Edward Lange told The Mast on Friday that the institution was saddened by the development.

The core mandate of the SAWR is to ensure that there is prudent management of natural resources.

The Lusaka High Court has sanctioned mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

The decision by the court now casts uncertainty on the tourism industry and small-scale entrepreneurs in the national park as Mwembeshi Resources Limited would go ahead with its large-scale mining activities in the centre of the park.

In January 2014, then Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Harry Kalaba shocked all concerned and ordinary Zambians when he gave a go-ahead to the mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

But a group of conservation-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) appealed Kalaba’s decision in the Lusaka High Court where they obtained an injunction which acted as a stay of execution of the mining project.

On October 17, Lusaka High Court judge Charles Chanda ruled that the appeal challenging the decision of Kalaba to allow Mwembeshi Resources to produce copper within the national park was incompetently before court as no record of appeal was filed.

This means Mwembeshi Resources Limited is now free to start its mining activities in the Zambezi Lower National Park.

Lange said: “we cannot blame the court”

“There is need for political intervention in the matter to protect the environment, even wildlife that is going to be disturbed in the Lower Zambezi by establishing a mine there,” Lange said.

“We appreciate that we have a law, regarding the protection and management of the environment, which law as an institution we believe is very weak. The law has highly been politicised and it is because of the politics around this law that we are appealing for political will to prevail.”

He advised the government to revoke the mining licence for Mwembeshi Resources Limited in the national park.

“The Ministry of Mines can revoke the mining licence so that no mining activity takes place in that important area. With the current situation, as alluded to by the Republican President on climate change, it would be highly hypocritical for the government of the day to allow such a mine to go ahead while on the other hand we are crying about climate change,” Lange explained.

“It’s like you are mopping water while pouring water on the other side! We are talking about climate change while we are promoting activities that are perpetrating climate change. We are crying louder about climate change…Our appeal is that let there be a high-level political intervention in the matter so as not to allow that mine to go ahead.”

Lange also said even the way the mining licence was granted to Mwembeshi Resources Limited was highly questioned, “it was charaterised with a lot of corruption.”

“People who were there before us were not foolish – they knew why they didn’t allow mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park,” he said.

“We’ve de-gazetted a lot of forest reserves, which is unprecedented, and we don’t even seem to appreciate the effects that will be on our environment. As an institution, we are appealing to the government to revoke the mining licence.”

Lange called upon well-meaning stakeholders to push for the revision and strengthening of the environmental management Act in order to remove supremacy from a political appointee “who is a minister.”
“Let’s leave all technical decisions with technocrats; let there be no appeals to a political figure who does not understand the relevance of preserving nature,” he noted.

“The environment should be well taken care of. Yes, mining will have economic benefits. But to who? As an institution, we are concerned about communities that live next to natural resources.”

Meanwhile, Lange noted that changing the economic landscape in the Lower Zambezi National Park would be another challenge.

“Apart from environmental disturbance that will be done there, there is also an aspect of the cultural and social set-up that is going to be disturbed,” regretted Lange.

Meanwhile, an online petition against mining in the park has hit 9,000 signatures. On Friday the initiators had targeted collecting 5,000 signatures which was attained. By Saturday, the initiative escalated the figure to 7,500 which was also achieved. By Sunday morning, the group increased the notch to 10,000.

The petitioners have declared that they would not be silent until the strong arm of greed and kick-backs has been completely vanquished and the proposal of mining for copper in the precious Lower Zambezi is stopped.

“We the people of Zambia want to put a stop to the mining operations which want to take place in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Lower Zambezi is a natural ecosystem, a delicate balance of wildlife and indigenous trees and plants. Under no circumstances can this be disturbed with mining activities, not to mention the devastation the toxic residue of such activities will bring to the soil and the rivers,” the petition reads in part. “This is not economic empowerment but the strong arm of corruption and greed at work. The solution is simple, take away all licences, permits and bring those who approved such atrocities to justice. We the Zambian people want to know why this is being allowed by our Judiciary when they know full well that it is clearly an environmental tragedy and a step closer to the extinction of our wildlife and indigenous vegetation… now climate change is making our situation worse through the ignorance and greed of those who do not understand it. For too long we have been quite, for too long we have been bullied into submission, now we say no more! Zambia is not for sale, never has been and never will be.”

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