SOUTHERN Africa Resource Watch says lands and environmental protection Minister Harry Kalaba should not mislead the country that mining projects in protected areas will create jobs since the mines are highly mechanised and employ few people.
And sources at the ministry say it will be difficult for the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) to issue a decision letter with all the appropriate conditions under which the project will operate because Mwembeshi Resources has failed in all aspects of environmental project management which they had been submitting to the agency.
Reacting to Kalaba's decision to allow construction of a copper mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park that was rejected by ZEMA, Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) Zambia coordinator, Edward Lange, said Kalaba was being irresponsible by approving the project and disregarding other pieces of legislation that govern management of natural resources.
"Mining does not create employment, as the technology is highly mechanised, meaning the minister is contradicting himself according to the conditions and reasons given for the approval of this project, we are disappointed, but we will continue to fight on behalf of the people," he said.
Mining accounts for less than 10 per cent of formal jobs in the country.
Lange said mining wastes had a negative impact on the surrounding ecosystems and had potential for long term environmental effects.
"If wastes are not chemically stable, they can become a permanent source of pollution to the natural water system and alter the quality, quantity and availability of surface and ground water," said Lange. "That is why standard international practice requires mining projects to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to evaluate the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development taking into account beneficial and adverse inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human health impacts. Now, if a politician feels investment is more superior to human beings, then we are worried as concerned institutions, and if an entity has failed to meet guidelines stipulated by an Act, then we have a problem."
And sources at the Ministry of Lands and Environmental Protection said ZEMA would have difficulties to comply with Kalaba's directive that a decision letter, with all the appropriate conditions under which the project would operate, should be issued to the developers.
"When this project was rejected, reasons were given for them to make fresh submissions and when they appealed to the ZEMA board, they didn't include what is required; again, it was rejected. So, we don't know what the minister wants ZEMA to do this time because this project has failed to comply in all aspects of environmental management," sources said.
Kalaba refused to comment on the matter when approached yesterday.
In September 2012, ZEMA rejected Mwembeshi Resources' Kangaluwi copper project, stating that the mines' Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) would be located in the Zambezi escarpment which is prone to earthquakes. And if the TSF was to fail, the impact would be significant and would extend to neighbouring countries.
ZEMA also stated that the estimate of mine life was not based on verifiable facts as the information submitted was full of contradictions.
It stated that benefits from mining operations may be for a very short period of time, but the consequences may be far more reaching.
ZEMA further stated that the proposed site was not suitable for mining and would permanently destroy the landscape of the park, thereby reducing the tourism value of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
But in a letter dated January 17 2014, addressed to Mwembeshi Resources managing director, Kalaba stated that he had considered carefully the submitted grounds of appeal against ZEMA's rejection.
"I have also carefully considered each and every ground of rejection given by the ZEMA board. In exercise of powers conferred on me by section 115 subsections 1, 2 and 3 of the Environmental Management Act, I have decide to approve the project on the following grounds," stated Kalaba. "Firstly, the project should go ahead because it will eventually create employment for ordinary people in the area. Secondly, there are currently available cost effective technologies and methods to adequately address all the identified negative impacts that may arise from this project and lastly, wildlife management in the area will be enhanced and conserved by the proposed managed scheme contained in your submissions. By copy of this letter, you are to liaise with ZEMA for them to issue a decision letter with all the appropriate conditions under which the project will operate."