Posted on 29 August 2023
Axing the mine will safeguard the health of the Zambezi River and benefit people and nature
The Save Zambezi, Safe Zambezi coalition has commended the Zambia Environmental Agency (ZEMA) for cancelling its previous decision to allow copper mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
ZEMA’s decision means that the mining activities proposed by Mwembeshi Resources Limited cannot proceed.
Civil society organisations, including WWF, Conservation Advocates Zambia, and Conservation Lower Zambezi, have worked hard to highlight the negative impacts the copper mine would have on the park and the river - as well as the people and nature that depend on it.
In particular, the mine would likely have had significant negative impacts - such as pollution - on the river, including its freshwater fisheries that are critical for the food security and livelihoods of communities in the Zambian province of Luangwa and downstream in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
“This is the right decision by ZEMA and the government," said WWF Zambia Country Director Nachilala Nkombo. "It reflects well on environmental oversight in Zambia and we congratulate all those involved on taking this bold step."
"It is a victory for those local communities who rely on farming, fishing, and tourism for their livelihoods in Zambia and neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique, not to mention the environment and wildlife in these areas," added Nkombo.
ZEMA’s cancellation of its permission to mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park came after Mwembeshi Resources failed to comply with a range of conditions outlined in the original decision letter issued in May 2021, which allowed mining to go ahead - as long as the mining company adhered to the conditions.
These conditions included Mwembeshi Resources not putting up permanent structures in the Park without prior approval; submitting Environmental Impact Assessments for water processing, fuel storage and sewerage treatment; undertaking a design for a tailings storage facility and submitting a comprehensive monitoring programme to ZEMA.
Mwembeshi’s failure to comply with these, and several other conditions, resulted in ZEMA’s decision.
“We now need to move forward and find ways to drive investment in Zambia that creates jobs and increases the tax base without causing social and environmental havoc. Zambia needs investments that will promote direct and indirect jobs in the Park as well as support local community livelihoods,” says Mehluli Batakathi Malisa of Conservation Advocates Zambia.
“Now is the time to support the government in their application to establish the Lower Zambezi National Park as a World Heritage Site, adjoining Mana Pools World Heritage Site in Zimbabwe and bringing greater opportunity and benefits to Zambia and its people,” said CEO of Conservation Lower Zambezi, Ian Stevenson.