Saturday, 25 January 2014

IN A TWIST OF PAINFUL INEVITABILITY: ZAMBIA TURNING INTO A NIGHTMARE


Elephants Crossing the Lower Zambezi

It was like a dream that turned to be true. You don’t need an environmental impact assessment to inform you that it’s wrong to mine in the middle of a National Park. Other than the obvious ecological negatives, It is a burgeoning tourism paradise with massive long term economic value; a spiritual home-land for thousands of Zambians and a heaven for wildlife and biodiversity. The Lower Zambezi has massive breeding herds of elephants, lion, leopard and large herds of buffalo roaming the floodplains. It’s just simply wrong to dig up a legally proclaimed conservation area and in a process to be considered as a World Heritage Site.  

Zambian politicians often talk about foreign companies as ‘investors’ in their country, and companies themselves present their presence in Zambia as a benevolent effort to create jobs, even at their own loss. This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Extractive industries come to Zambia to take advantage of low taxes and liberal policies which allow them to ruthlessly loot and exploit the natural resources, leaving behind corruption, environmental and social damage which their minimal tax contributions don’t come close to compensating.
In 2011, an Australian mining Zambezi Resource Limited had submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). ZEMA is a Professional Institution full of experts that is mandated and entrusted by the Zambian Government to ensure the protection of our environment and our people. The response was as follows;
“The proposed site is not suitable for the nature of the project because it is located in the middle of a national park and thus intends to compromise the ecological value of the park as well as the ecosystem.”
Surprisingly, On 17 January 2014, the Zambian PF government through Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection overlooked the ZEMA position and advice despite a fully rejected EIA and gave full permission to Zambezi Resource Limited for an open cast copper mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park. What does this mean for Zambia? What are the benefits to the Zambian people? How many jobs will be created from this project? What is wrong with our government not to trust its own experts (ZEMA)???
The truth is, even if there were major benefits to ordinary Zambians of mining copper in the Lower Zambezi National Park, what is clear is that these benefits are not even close to being realized. Critically thinking; Large-scale open pit mining uses explosives and heavy earthmoving equipment nothing like as labour intensive as the proponents would like us to believe.
"There are very few benefits of mining in the Lower Zambezi National park that will trump the long term environmental, economic-from tourism, spiritual and cultural losses incurred over the next 25 years of large-scale open pit mining on the Zambezi escarpment."
I want to tell the Mining Companies and the Zambian government that, Not every Blank space you see on our map is "NEW COPPER PROVINCE" in Zambia, NO!! How can we justify bending the rules to this extent for the purpose of short-term gain for the few???? Does this Australian company have the right to apply financial muscle in Zambia and Africa? As a prospecting company, are they simply going to sell off the rights to a Chinese investor once the battle is won? Who takes responsibility for the damage at the end of it all? Where is a summary of the plan to mitigate damage?
I strongly believe that, Africa’s brightest economies at the moment are not being driven by this damaging mining practice, but by food production. We need a new approach, we can’t get wealthy at the expense of our environment and we still must live with the environment. I am calling upon all activist, advocates and negotiators at both National and International Level, to continue talking and signing petitions until the Zambian Patriotic Front Government Reverses the Endorsement of the Zambezi Resource Limited from mining in the Lower Zambezi and respect the advice of the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) a professional institution full of experts that is mandated and entrusted by the Zambian Government to ensure the protection of our environment and our people.

'STOP THE LOWER ZAMBEZI MINING - HEAVEN FOR WILDLIFE AND BIODIVERSITY'