[Posted on 23 Jun, 2021 by Oxpeckers Reporters]
On September 19 2012 Mwembeshi Resources Ltd wrote to the then minister of lands, natural resources and environmental protection, Harry Kalaba, appealing against the ruling made by ZEMA. In terms of the Environment Management Act of 2011, the minister can, subject to certain conditions, overrule decisions of the agency.
Kalaba threw out the ruling on January 17 2014 and approved the mining project, saying it would create employment for ordinary Zambians. He said problems associated with acid mine drainage could be mitigated because there were “available cost-effective technologies and methods” to deal with it adequately.
Kalaba directed the ZEMA board to cooperate with Mwembeshi Resources “for the issuance of a mining permit subject to conditions”. However, the board ignored the order and sued the minister for interfering in its work.
The case never went for hearing because Kalaba fired the board and issued Mwembeshi Resources with a mining licence on February 3 2014.
This unilateral approach by the government angered many affected individuals, tourism operators and conservation groups. On February 7 2014, a coalition of civic organisations – including the Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum, Zambia Climate Change Network, Chalimbina River Headwaters and Conservation Trust and David Ngwenyama – lodged an application at the Zambian High Court seeking an order to freeze the minister’s decision to let mining go ahead.
The High Court ruled in favour of the coalition on October 17 2014 and froze the execution of the Mwembeshi Resources mining plan.
Exactly five years later – on October 17 2019 – the High Court withdrew the injunction against mining on the basis that the coalition had failed to submit documents required by the court between 2014 and 2019.
The coalition then turned to the Zambian Court of Appeals in an effort to overturn the High Court ruling. Earlier this year, on February 27 2021, the Court of Appeals upheld the High Court decision, effectively ending all channels of legal recourse for the coalition.
In June 2021 a coalition of local and international environmental organisations said in a statement “it has come to our attention that on May 7 2021 Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) issued a letter approving the very controversial environmental impact statement for a large-scale open pit mine located inside the Lower Zambezi National Park.
“The Zambezi basin, whose main flow is the Zambezi river, is one of Africa’s most important basins. It’s a natural asset shared between Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique directly supporting the livelihoods of over 47-million people,” the statement said.
Come back and join us for Parts 1 – 10:
PART 1 ” Controversial open-pit in Lower Zambezi”
PART 2 “Environmental impact assessment“
PART 3 ” Legal battles”
PART 4 ” Tourism concerns”
PART 5 ” Political precedents”
PART 6 ” Green Party”
PART 7 ” Holes in the EIA”
PART 8 ” Judiciary under scrutiny”
PART 9 ” Questions to ask yourself”