Alright, just a quick note before we start. I would hate for you to get half way through this post, throw up your hands in disgust and say: ‘Not another seedy mining project. People are horrible, I’ve had enough, what’s the point?’.
I mention this because these were some of the thoughts that came into my head when I first heard about the plans to mine copper in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Maybe I’m more susceptible to the emotional effects of this news, having recently visited the area this year. Experiencing the quiet flow of the Zambezi River and the animals that live off it; the big trees that decorate its bank and the feeling of being in wilderness that stretches inland for another 5000 square kilometres – it just does something to you. When you become touched by a place like this, it makes it all the more difficult to come to terms with plans to destroy some of it.
But rather than get jaded or emotional, I always say it’s better to get educated and proactive. So here are a few of the facts about the Lower Zambezi National Park and proposed Kangaluwi copper mine.
- The Lower Zambezi National Park is being considered as part of a greater World Heritage Area which includes the famous Mana Pools National Park.
- Despite a decision by the Zambian government to halt any mining in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park, a grant was given to Australian company Zambezi Resourses (A subsidiary of a much bigger company called Proactive Investors) to carry out a large scale open-pit mining license for a period of 25 years at Kangaluwi (In the middle of the park).
- Zambezi Resources has set up a sub-subsidiary company in Zambia called Mwembeshi Resourses.
- It appears that there is more than one area under prospect by Zambezi Resourses. According to their report, there are several sites nearby which have potential for copper and gold.
- It’s been a number of months, and, although submitted, there has been no word as to the result of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The news will come from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) which has remained very quite through public opposition.
- Open pit mines are a messy business, and include huge destruction of the area and surrounds. The issues of pollution, infrastructure, roads, noise and poaching traditionally follow these mining projects.
- The proposed mining area is 50 square kilometres and will be seen from the Zambezi River itself.
Now for a few personal thoughts.
Of all the players in this scenario, the people I would most like to hear from are Zambezi Resourses – or rather the Australian parent company Proactive Investors. I’d like to understand how an Australian company can make a claim on African resources at the expense of an iconic African National Park… even if the Zambian government, for some reason, does grant them permission to do so. There is surely an injustice here?
On the Zambezi Resourses website I found an investor news feed about progress on the Kangaluwi mine, but in seven posts it failed to mention once that the planned site is right in the middle of a National Park. I wonder if the investors know this is the case? And if they did, would they think twice about the financial and – if they have a conscience – environmental risks?
The only paragraph on the website mentioning the environment reveals that they have outsourced the Environmental Impact Assessment to a company called GeoQuest. Apart from sounding a bit like a computer game, the Zambian company’s core focus is consulting and contracting for the mining sector. Due to high demand, as they state on their website, they have now developed a department that can handle environmental impact assessments.
The cynical side of me starts to itch here. I can just see their board meetings now: “This is brilliant”, they say, “We can be the consultants, the contractors AND the environmental assessors all at once. We consult and refer ourselves as the environmental assessors, and then when we give the go ahead to mine, we can take on the big contract too.”
Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Someone might say.
No. The interest is to mine and make money and that is all that matters.
I only bring up this point up to illustrate how absurd the whole situation is. You don’t need a professional assessment to tell you that it is right or wrong to dig up a nationally proclaimed conservation and biodiversity area – a patch of land that has been specifically set aside for the posterity of future generations and the financial benefit of the country though tourism.
I would love for somebody to sit me down and tell me why it is not wrong to mine in a National Park. Give me some long-term benefit for Zambia that trumps the environmental, economic, spiritual and cultural losses incurred over the next 25 years of open pit mining on the Zambezi escarpment.
You might bring up the economic debate. And yes, I would say in an ideal world some of the economic benefits of mining should go to the people and the communities, but I’m afraid they never do. This has been proved over and over again. The money goes off shore and into government coffers. And 25 years later we will see the damage, look back and wonder how this could have happened.
This is why I think Zambezi Resources fails to mention Lower Zambezi National Park in their investor news reports. It’s because they know that at the core of it – Kangaluwi Mine is wrong. They won’t admit it for whatever reason, but they know it’s wrong.
You may accuse me of over-simplifying this, but to me it is simple. The area is in line to become a World Heritage Site, is defined as a category II protected area and despite vows by the government and local chiefdoms not to exploit this area for mining purposes, plans still go ahead to destroy and poison a watershed in one of the last remaining pieces of wilderness in the world.
No mining conglomerate should be able to justify this kind of exploitation. And if they don’t feel they need to try and justify it to us, the Australian public and the world, then they at least need to justify it to their investors who would be contributing the the wholesale destruction of this Park and the Zambezi Valley.
I can’t say for sure why (although I have my suspicions), but nobody in power is taking responsibility for this mine in Zambia. So it’s up to us to point out how obviously wrong it is.
Because sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out by a lot of people at once in order for others to take notice.
Share the story and make a difference.
If you are interested in voicing your opposition to the mine and keeping up to date with developments, please sign the online petition created by I.P.A Manning on change.org.
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific complaints.