The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has followed with keen interest the events unfolding in relation to the intended Kangaluwi Copper Mining Project in the Lower Zambezi National Park CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo has noted.
Mwaipopo disclosed that the Kangaluwi Project is an initiative of Mwembeshi Resources Limited, which was granted a large-scale mining license for a period of 25 years in March of 2011 and that the site of the intended mining activities is the Kangaluwi area situated in the Lower Zambezi National Park, which covers about 977 km (roughly 25 percent of the national park).
“the open pit mining activities will likely occupy a larger area to accommodate employees, storage equipment and piling of tailings or the earth in order to reach copper ore”.
He added that the Environmental and mining experts predict that full scale mining activities could cover up to 50 percent of the Lower Zambezi National Park, which is an ecologically sensitive area.
He said mining being an extractive industry, its activities will inevitably cause a severe damage to the environment and disrupt the ecosystem of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Mwaipopo added that the Lower Zambezi National Park is a priority tourist destination with its abundance of wildlife species and vegetation as well conservation value being that it is considered to be the western arm of the East African Rift Valley.
“Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Zambian economy and vital to government’s economic diversification policy”.
Mwaipopo added that the center is concerned about the intended mining activities and urged government to cancel or revoke all pending and existing licenses in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Mr Mwaipopo says CTPD is encouraged by the statement that was issued by the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela to the effect that the mining operations by Mwembeshi Resources were still subject to an environmental impact assessment report and that no mining activities were currently permitted.
” CTPD has however taken note of the sentiments expressed by some Royal Highnesses who urged government to allow the mining activities in order to create jobs and secure livelihoods for his people. As an organization focused on the development of pro poor trade and development policies, CTPD is concerned primarily with the well-being of the communities and the impact that various policies and government decisions have on the day to day lives of Zambians, “Mr. Mwaipopo said.
He stressed that the concerns raised by the traditional authorities are valid in the wake of the decline in the country’s economic growth which between 2016 and 2018 averaged 3.5 percent per year compared to 7.4 percent between 2004 and 2014.
“According to the World Bank, Zambia has one of the highest inequality gaps in the world such that the economic growth has characteristically benefitted a small segment of the urban population,” Mr. Mwaipopo said.
Mr. Mwaipopo noted that Rural communities remain largely marginalized, bearing the brunt of the unemployment rate currently at 7.15 percent and susceptible to promises from unqualified investors, issues which must be addressed.
He said that whilst CTPD maintains its stance against mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park, all stakeholders and interested parties should continue to engage in dialogue and reach a mutually beneficial consensus.
” CTPD concurs that whilst tourism should be the primary economic driver in relation to the Lower Zambezi and other national parks, efforts should be made by government to ensure that the industry is driven by Zambians and in so doing guarantee a trickle down effect to the local communities,” He added.
Mr. Mwaipopo also observed that the National parks in Zambia are spotted with secluded luxury camps managed by foreign multinationals and private individuals.
“The luxury resorts and camps cost upwards of USD 500 a night on average, making the facilities largely inaccessible to the majority of Zambians and hindering local tourism. This is itself an impediment to the growth of the industry and a loss of revenue and potential employment creation”, He noted.
Mr. Mwaipopo strongly urges government to firstly continue engaging with traditional authorities and develop effective strategies that strike a balance between sound investment and opportunities for rural communities.
“In addition, there is need (through consultation and dialogue) to develop interventions aimed at increasing local participation in the tourism sector”, He said.