1 November 2012

Zambia: ZEMA Rejects Lower Zambezi Open Pit Mine

THE Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has rejected a proposal by Zambezi Resources to develop an open pit mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

ZEMA public relations officer Irene Chipili said that the agency had rejected the proposal for the US$494-million project which would have compromised the ecological value of the park.

Ms Chipili said the proposed site was not suitable for developing a mine as it would be located in the middle of a national park and that adverse impact of open pit mining would therefore permanently destroy the landscape of the park.

Zambezi Resources, an Australian firm was granted a mining licence in 2003 to start mining activities.

Zambezi Resources a subsidiary of Mwembeshi Resources was expected to start copper production at the Kangaluwe project in the Lower Zambezi National Park by 2015.

Ms Chipili said that having a mine in the park would reduce its tourism value adding that Lower Zambezi was among the major national parks that earns the country a lot of revenue.

She said some of the reasons that led to the rejection of the proposal were the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) which was to be constructed in the Zambezi escarpment which was prone to earthquakes.

Ms Chipili said that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by the developer did not address several issues which included the copper leach process and Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) among others.

"The estimate of mine life is not based on verifiable facts as the EIA is full of contradictions, the benefits from the mining operations may be for a very short period of time but the consequences may be for far more years," she said.

The proposed mine is located about 30 km from the Mana Pools World Heritage Site in Zimbabwe meaning that any possible failure of TSF or abnormal discharge of effluent would affect negatively the World Heritage site.

The issue of ARD and consequently the metal leaching was not being addressed and the impact of ARD would be significant especially after the mine has been closed.

The firm had pledged the creation of more than 500 employment opportunities during the construction stage while 300 should have been permanent ones.

During the public consultation period, some stakeholders had opposed the project saying that the damage it would cause to the environment outweighed the benefits which would accrue.

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