Kangaluwi: The Lower Zambezi National Park battle begins!

Alright, just a quick note before we start. I would hate for you to get half way through this post, throw up your hands in disgust and say: ‘Not another seedy mining project. People are horrible, I’ve had enough, what’s the point?’.

I mention this because these were some of the thoughts that came into my head when I first heard about the plans to mine copper in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Maybe I’m more susceptible to the emotional effects of this news, having recently visited the area this year. Experiencing the quiet flow of the Zambezi River and the animals that live off it; the big trees that decorate its bank and the feeling of being in wilderness that stretches inland for another 5000 square kilometres – it just does something to you. When you become touched by a place like this, it makes it all the more difficult to come to terms with plans to destroy some of it.

But rather than get jaded or emotional, I always say it’s better to get educated and proactive. So here are a few of the facts about the Lower Zambezi National Park and proposed Kangaluwi copper mine.

The proposed mining site in red

  • The Lower Zambezi National Park is being considered as part of a greater World Heritage Area which includes the famous Mana Pools National Park.
  • Despite a decision by the Zambian government to halt any mining in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park, a grant was given to Australian company Zambezi Resourses (A subsidiary of a much bigger company called Proactive Investors) to carry out a large scale open-pit mining license for a period of 25 years at Kangaluwi (In the middle of the park).
  • Zambezi Resources has set up a sub-subsidiary company in Zambia called Mwembeshi Resourses.
  • It  appears that there is more than one area under prospect by Zambezi Resourses. According to their report, there are several sites nearby which have potential for copper and gold.
  • It’s been a number of months, and, although submitted, there has been no word as to the result of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The news will come from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) which has remained very quite through public opposition.
  • Open pit mines are a messy business, and include huge destruction of the area and surrounds. The issues of pollution, infrastructure, roads, noise and poaching traditionally follow these mining projects.
  • The proposed mining area is 50 square kilometres and will be seen from the Zambezi River itself.

Now for a few personal thoughts.

Of all the players in this scenario, the people I would most like to hear from are Zambezi Resourses – or rather the Australian parent company Proactive Investors. I’d like to understand how an Australian company can make a claim on African resources at the expense of an iconic African National Park… even if the Zambian government, for some reason, does grant them permission to do so.  There is surely an injustice here?

On the Zambezi Resourses website I found an investor news feed about progress on the Kangaluwi mine, but in seven posts it failed to mention once that the planned site is right in the middle of a National Park. I wonder if the investors know this is the case? And if they did, would they think twice about the financial and – if they have a conscience – environmental risks?

The lower Zambezi valley

The only paragraph on the website mentioning the environment reveals that they have outsourced the Environmental Impact Assessment to a company called GeoQuest. Apart from sounding a bit like a computer game, the Zambian company’s core focus is consulting and contracting for the mining sector. Due to high demand, as they state on their website, they have now developed a department that can handle environmental impact assessments.

The cynical side of me starts to itch here. I can just see their board meetings now: “This is brilliant”, they say, “We can be the consultants, the contractors AND the environmental assessors all at once. We consult and refer ourselves as the environmental assessors, and then when we give the go ahead to mine, we can take on the big contract too.”

Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Someone might say.

No. The interest is to mine and make money and that is all that matters.

I only bring up this point up to illustrate how absurd the whole situation is. You don’t need a professional assessment to tell you that it is right or wrong to dig up a nationally proclaimed conservation and biodiversity area – a patch of land that has been specifically set aside for the posterity of future generations and the financial benefit of the country though tourism.

I would love for somebody to sit me down and tell me why it is not wrong to mine in a National Park. Give me some long-term benefit for Zambia that trumps the environmental, economic, spiritual and cultural losses incurred over the next 25 years of open pit mining on the Zambezi escarpment.

You might bring up the economic debate. And yes, I would say in an ideal world some of the economic benefits of mining should go to the people and the communities, but I’m afraid they never do. This has been proved over and over again. The money goes off shore and into government coffers. And 25 years later we will see the damage, look back and wonder how this could have happened.

This is why I think Zambezi Resources fails to mention Lower Zambezi National Park in their investor news reports. It’s because they know that at the core of it – Kangaluwi Mine is wrong. They won’t admit it for whatever reason, but they know it’s wrong.

An open cast mine. Photo copyright Wikimedia Commons

You may accuse me of over-simplifying this, but to me it is simple. The area is in line to become a World Heritage Site, is defined as a category II protected area and despite vows by the government and local chiefdoms not to exploit this area for mining purposes, plans still go ahead to destroy and poison a watershed in one of the last remaining pieces of wilderness in the world.

No mining conglomerate should be able to justify this kind of exploitation. And if they don’t feel they need to try and justify it to us, the Australian public and the world, then they at least need to justify it to their investors who would be contributing the the wholesale destruction of this Park and the Zambezi Valley.

I can’t say for sure why (although I have my suspicions), but nobody in power is taking responsibility for this mine in Zambia. So it’s up to us to point out how obviously wrong it is.

Because sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out by a lot of people at once in order for others to take notice.

Share the story and make a difference.

If you are interested in voicing your opposition to the mine and keeping up to date with developments, please sign the online petition created by I.P.A Manning on change.org.

Or email info@zambeziresources.com for more specific complaints.

Keen to visit Zambia? Check out Kafunta River Lodge, one of Africa Geographic's Special Places.

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About Paul Steyn

Paul Steyn spends his days submerged in the world of digital story telling. When coming up for air, he prefers it to be somewhere in the middle of the wilderness. He is obsessed with finding new and interesting ways to distribute content to all those who love and connect with Africa.

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  • Kathy

    Looks like the resources in Africa are open game – wonder if Aus would use a heritage site in their country to mine?

    • http://twitter.com/PaulSteyn1 Paul Steyn

      Good question. I think we need to take this issue directly to Australia.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Simon.Espley1 Simon Espley

        Great idea. How do we do that?

    • http://www.facebook.com/morkel.erasmus Morkel Erasmus

      Great! Let’s start a South African front company to do open-cast uranium mining at Uluru…

    • http://www.facebook.com/linda.visman.9 Linda Visman

      Unfortunately, Kathy, there are mining companies now getting their mitts into the Tarkine Wilderness in Tasmania. The Tarkine is the only remaining area where undiseased Tasmanian Devils can be found.
      The mining companies want to go ahead with strip (open cut/open cast) mining there too. We have a fight on our hands now trying to stop this going ahead.
      Wherever mining companies find minerals, they jump in, regardless of the environmental and other impacts. The only concept for them is profit; it comes before any other consideration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Simon.Espley1 Simon Espley

    TOTALLY agree Paul

    • Survival Survivalafrica

      Simon – Talk to me about a TV doc on this.
      Cheers
      David Rabie

      • Simon Espley

        What’s on your mind David? Have sent LinedIn contact request – talk to me there.

  • Megs

    As an Aussie now calling the Lower Zambezi home I am at an absolute loss to see how investors could let this go ahead – the battle will continue!

  • http://www.facebook.com/morkel.erasmus Morkel Erasmus

    Great read Paul! Succinct. Effective. Asking the right questions. I would throw the porposed heavy minerals mining in the Mana Pools area into the mix as well! Corporate greed is planning to suck the very life out of one of the last truly wild and pristine areas of our once great continent. Name them and shame them.

  • MajorSniper

    Its pretty normal for Africans to have such short sight into thier own futures. Doing this will rendor the area totally useless in the long term as far as eco tourism is concerned which is bad for both the wildlife and the people of the land. Its such a shame to see this happening no matter who the people are or where they are from. Money always has and always will be the downfall of mankind and with the power of greed to fuel them, what will we have left to show our children apart from the scars left behind by our past fathers greed !!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sona-Mason/1098879756 Sona Mason

      of course – only Africans. but certainly not Americans, for example…

  • Goldonomic.com

    if poiticians would not behave like assholes, gold would be worthless and gold mining obsolete…and this problem would not even exist! People forget that most of the time THEY elect the politicians and fail to control and kick them in the butt when they misbehave….

  • Robulawayo .

    Australian mining companies can no longer AFFORD to mine in Australia due to the Carbon ( Dioxide) Tax that has been imposed on them , coupled with the Mining Profits Tax that has also been imposed . Hence , they are looking to less costly alternatives . And , NO , the government would not allow mining of this or any type in an Heritage Listed area .

    • http://www.facebook.com/linda.visman.9 Linda Visman

      See my reply to Kathy above. The Tarkine Wilderness is a heritage area that is supposed to be left untouched in order to maintain its unique environmental condition..
      Australian mining companies are basically unaffected by the Mining tax, which only applies to those who are making huge profits already. The Carbon tax hardly affects anyone at all, although they try to claim that it does.
      Mining exploration is constantly going ahead in areas of Australia that should never be touched. So YES, Australian mining is also raping our own country! And there is a great proportion of the population who disagree with that. We also hate to see what is happening in the Lower Zambezi. Both are a morally and legally a crime!

  • Judy Dixon

    Thank you Paul for this information. I must admit to feeling completely helpless in situations such as these, especially when my own homeland Zimbabwe is in the process of being destroyed by greed on a monumental scale. Once Mana goes, what next? I am cynical about the good ordinary intelligent people can do in the face of big money. My heart weeps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.alkema Marc Alkema

    Why oh why do we allow foreigners to rape and pillage our most beautiful areas?Oh yes,they have no more…so they will take from others and flash the monies in front of people who don’t have the ability to think clearly.We have lost the plot as a human race.These are the last areas we can leave protected and now we want to have it all.This is disgusting and attrocious.

  • Helen Walden

    This must NEVER be allowed!! Lower Zambezi bring it’s own natural wealth to Zambia… We speak for the Wild Life,the People and the most beautiful part of Zambia… At all costs this must not happen! The fight begins… Helen Walden

  • ZamZim

    They should do it to their own heritage
    site first before coming to Africa and distorting our land. Just because we are
    African we are not despite for you money we love our land and will fight for it

  • GH1983

    It appears Zambezi Resources Limited has failed to inform investors adequately that they are planning to dig in a National Park! The this point is emphasised, the less likely people will invest in this project. LinQ Resources – an Australian hedge fund – appears to be the major financial backer, they must be pressurised to withdraw interest in Zambezi Resources:

    http://www.economy-news.co.uk/other-financial-shares/1703-zambezi-resources-kangaluwi

    • http://twitter.com/PaulSteyn1 Paul Steyn

      Thanks for the article. Well-researched and investigated. Still not convinced about the transparency of the whole thing.

  • GH1983
  • Neryl Kennaird

    Well Done Paul and all the other people who lobbied to get this appalling exploitation stopped in it’s tracks. We now have the looming danger of a mining exploration operation starting on the Zimbabean side of Mana – lets fights this. Zambia’s example shows that the little guys can win sometimes.

  • James

    Thanks for this great article Paul, and agreed: take this to the Australian media and public

  • Hakuna Matata

    Developed nations why do you continue to rape third world countries instead of assisting them or letting them deal with their own issues? Everything always has a price and comes with a hefty price. You know your GDP does well and your populations are not as bad as the ones in third world countries. You know you are offering Zambia the short end of the stick. You are the ones to benefit from this and after a few years when you get what you want, you will leave Zambia more poor than it is. Leave the beautiful ecosystem alone as it is soon to be declared by UNESCO as a heritage site. What about the local people who depend on agriculture in that area, what are they going to do? The animals do we just displace them? You know elephants will always return to a place they know which will cause conflict. Animals will start moving into human territory which can lead lions to start killing cattle for survival and even local people. We love our very own water source the Zambezi river and wish for it to not be polluted with toxic waste from dumping which is illegal. What do you plan to do in terms of compensation should this happen which will cause death and illness to both humans and animals. Maybe ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority), Harry Kalaba Lands Minister of Environment and Protection and Minister of Tourism of Arts Sylvia Masebo and the Zambia Tourism Board don’t see anything wrong or what’s coming ahead. But we see the consequences and will fight tooth and nail to conserve and preserve instead of another developed nation coming to destroy what is rightfully ours. Please leave Zambia alone and let us rebuild our tourism economy. Because in a few years to come it will be flourishing and we will create jobs in this sector and encourage investors from around the would to join us. This is a huge mistake and the world is watching. Australia will be the downfall of not only Zambia but the other nations who share the Zambezi river should there be any kind of water contamination.