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Kangaluwi’s proposed mine will kill Zambia’s Lower...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

The Kangaluwi mine issue: Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park is under threat

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By TJ Kaunda
13 Feb 2022 0

TJ Kaunda is a Zambian businessman and a former politician and civil servant.

If my father, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, were alive today, he would surely be the one speaking from this page. And he would surely do that famous weeping thing which he did whenever something sorely touched his being. Such a thing is the Kangaluwi issue.

Just for a moment I would like to say my bit about just how bad an idea it is to place a mine in or near our precious national parks. Zambia is being forced to allow exactly this and it threatens one of Zambia’s most treasured resources.

The story of the proposed Kangaluwi open-pit mine, which would operate right smack in the middle of the Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP), is full of twists and turns and throws up more questions than answers. The one thing we are sure about is that such a mine, in such a place, is a danger to life in our country, in our region, and in our world.

Who are the owners of Kangaluwi anyway? No one really knows.

Why do they want to put a mine in a beautiful national park where humans and wildlife have existed in harmony all these centuries, protected by our wise chiefs and kings? Truth be told, we don’t know. Why do they want to pour the inevitable waste, effluent, dirty chemicals and other pollutants into rivers which would port them into the Zambezi, polluting it and the Indian Ocean? We don’t know. Why would we allow a company with unknown owners and origins to ruin not only our lives but the lives of the people in the wider Southern African Development Community (SADC) region as well? We should not.

God gave us this one planet to tend and be responsible for all that is in it. That includes the land, the water, the wildlife.

The Zambezi River is a shared watercourse with the other SADC states. The LZNP is an integral part of the wider Zambezi basin which is the most significant shared resource in southern Africa contributing as it does to the environmental and socioeconomic development of the region.

Sustainable management of this resource is crucial in securing the futures of the over 250 million people in the broader region that depend on it. Why would we pollute it? Anything threatening its ecosystem is a collective SADC issue. We in Zambia have no right to unilaterally encroach on the rights of the other countries just so that some unknown individuals can make a lot of money for themselves but leave us the blame.

If the mine was to go ahead it would contaminate the water in the Zambezi delta and ruin the farming and fishing livelihoods of the communities who depend on it. The tourism sector in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique would be adversely and irreversibly affected. The Indian Ocean and its wildlife, already under threat from man-made pollution, would have one more burden to bear.

If my father, Dr Kenneth Kaunda were alive today, he would surely be the one speaking from this page. And he would surely do that famous weeping thing which he did whenever something sorely touched his being. Such a thing is the Kangaluwi issue. And he did speak strongly against it while he lived. He declared LZNP a national park in the early 1980s and was greatly disturbed to learn of the possibility of a mine being allowed in it. He believed that this would pose a clear threat to the pristine wilderness.

KK, as many of you famously knew him, was also the father that took my siblings and me to most of the game parks in Zambia. He didn’t end there. He sent us to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti in Tanzania. We were privileged. He taught us the importance of wildlife and its value in the tourism sector. So naturally, I want to stand up and be counted in the fight to stop the digging of a pit that would turn out to be highly damaging to the ecosystem and in 10 years be totally worthless to Zambians.

Ecotourism in the area depends largely on the renewable wildlife and habitat resources and contributes significantly to the local and national economies around the LZNP. The proposed mine would be almost directly in the middle of the national park in a section of the escarpment only 3.5km from the valley floor where wildlife is concentrated. Endangered African savannah elephants, as well as kudu, sable, roan and some eland, roam throughout this habitat.

So how do we stop the mine from going ahead? The courts have made their decision but who says that’s the end of the story? It is the people who say what the Constitution is.

Tourism establishments in the park and surrounding areas employ more than a thousand local people, generating a local wage bill of $4 million annually that indirectly supports thousands more people at a local community level.

Ownership of the mine has long been a source of great mystery and frustration to us. Mwembeshi Resources Ltd, the company that originally applied for a licence for a large-scale mine in the park in 2010 was then the Zambian subsidiary of Zambezi Resources, an Australian-owned company based in Perth with local offices in Lusaka.

They submitted a deeply flawed environmental impact survey (EIS) which was panned by Zambian and international experts and ultimately rejected by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (Zema). The environmental regulator said the proposed site was not suitable as “it is located in the middle of a national park, and this intends to compromise the ecological value of the park as well as the ecosystem”.

Shockingly, the decision by Zema – the regulator established through an Act of Parliament to protect the environment – was overturned by a minister in the previous government and a mining licence was issued. Zambians resisted and various legal processes and other delays then took place during which Zambezi Resources Ltd changed its name to Trek Metals Ltd. Trek subsequently sold Mwembeshi and the Kangaluwi Copper Project to a Dubai-based investment company named Grand Resources Ltd.

The ownership structure seems almost purposefully complex. Perhaps more important, the current Mwembeshi Resources is no longer owned by the company that originally sought and received the licence. Yet their flawed EIA seems to still stand and Mwembeshi’s submission to resume the project was last year given the go-ahead.

That famous phrase comes to mind: Stand up and be counted!

 If we allow the mine to go ahead we shall be left with a huge, worthless open pit in a highly polluted environment. The investor, whose name we don’t know will be gone. The promised jobs will have ended. The minerals we owned under the ground will be gone. The wildlife and the tourism it attracted will be gone. But we shall know that we were the generation that killed the chicken that gave us eggs every day. We often don’t know what we have until it’s gone.

Research, such as that done by Professor Kellie Leigh in 2014, clearly shows that any mining activity in the LZNP will have absolutely no long-term economic value. Understanding this, Zambians from all walks of life have expressed their disapproval at various times in all sorts of ways and as long as the spectre of the mine remains, the opposition to it will continue.

So how do we stop the mine from going ahead? The courts have made their decision but who says that’s the end of the story? It is the people who say what the Constitution is.

We heard President Hakainde Hichilema (whom we popularly call HH) say, before he became president, that the Constitution was flawed. Can we fail to agree with him after witnessing what happened in the courts over the LZNP? Unjust outcomes in the courts mean that the highest court, the people themselves, must intervene. Especially where lives and livelihoods are at stake. Let us now give President Hichilema the reason he needs to scrap this Kangaluwi mine, whose owners remain unknown.

We can begin by pointing out that the last untampered official word from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency on the Kangaluwi mine was an emphatic “NO”.

Then let more voices, from all walks of life, speak. Let us widen our petition by getting more people to sign and join the 38,000 people who have already done so. And, make no mistake, this is not a job for Zambians alone. All SADC citizens are called upon to sign the petition.

Let the president know we have his back and that he is at liberty to send Kangaluwi packing to the unknown place it comes from. DM

 

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