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WWF Zambia Welcomes Zambian Government’s Leadership

WWF Zambia welcomes Zambian government’s leadership on the Lower Zambezi national park mining case, but calls for strengthened governance of protected areas management.

Following the recent joint statement issued during a joint press briefing by the chief Government spokesperson and Minister of Information- Honorable Dora Siliya, Minister of Tourism and Arts- Honorable Ronald Chitotela and Minister of Mines, Honorable Richard Musukwa in which they informed the nation that a collective agreement on the lower Zambezi had been reached and no mining would be allowed, 

WWF Zambia would like to commend the Government for taking a stand in the interim to disallow mining activities in the lower Zambezi National Park, as allowing mining operations in the park would have negative environmental impacts. WWF would like to reiterate its earlier position that there is need to seriously look into current governance and management flaws in the management of protected areas in Zambia which not only includes wildlife sanctuaries and national parks but also includes other key areas such as forests, rivers and water resources, land and other areas that have unique bio-diversity that must be conserved and protected.

The Lower Zambezi case provides great lessons to the country on current challenges faced around protected areas management and lack of coordination amongst key government ministries that play a role in ensuring that these areas are well secured. 

It is clear that there are lapses in coordination between the process of issuance of mining licenses among government authorities. The risk with this is that government may continue to issue out licenses in areas that have high ecological sensitivities which may pose significant challenges to affected communities and investors themselves.  The Minister of Mines is on record of having recently suspended 12 mining licenses that were issued to areas near the source of the Zambezi River. Whilst this move is welcome, it further validates our position that currently the country has a challenge with the issuance of licenses as these licenses should not have been issued in the first place owing to the ecological sensitivity of the Zambezi River. WWF wishes to firmly state that water and rivers are the country’s lifeline support in coping with the negative impacts of climate change. The Zambezi river is a critical water source that has the potential (alongside other major rivers and tributaries) to mitigate the impacts of droughts for our local people and begin to change the narrative on vulnerability to climate change impacts. This is only possible to achieve with clear commitments to protection and effective management of all ecologically sensitive areas.

WWF observes that the Mining ACT number 11 of 2015 under section 22 (c) permits the issuance of mining exploration licenses on land that is within a national park, community partnership park, game management areas, bird or wildlife sanctuary, national forest, local forest, botanical reserve or private forest provided there is a written consent from the appropriate authority. It is our considered view that this provision must be reviewed and completely removed from the Act as we believe that mining activities should not even be considered in key ecologically sensitive areas. Similarly, section 16 of the Zambia Wildlife Act No 14 of 2015 needs to be amended to categorically prohibit mining in national parks.  We call for the harmonization of supportive legislation between the mining, tourism and water resources that will support the Presidential directive to urgently undertake action to mitigate climate change impacts by protecting water resources. 

Allowing mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park has great potential to lead to water contamination on one part, it also has the potential to cause increased human/ animal conflict and will cause serious disturbances to the natural habitat in that area. WWF further observes that the mining license issued to Mwembeshi Resources is for 25 years to undertake an open cast mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park, and even though Government stated that mining may not commence immediately due to validity of the EIA report .and the need for fresh decision from the Zambia Environmental Management  Agency (ZEMA).  

We sadly note that the Zambezi Resources Mining License No. 15547-HQ-LML remains valid until its 25 year period. The High Court ruling issued to lift the injunction still remains valid. As such, we further call upon the civil society fraternity to fully support the legal process of appeal on this matter for a clear conclusion and we further reiterate our call for the Zambian government to effect a mining license cancellation.