Environmental Activists Protest Mining in Lower Zambezi National Park

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by Charles Sakala / Zambia Reports

Local environmental activists opposed to copper mining operations in the Lower Zambezi National Park have vowed to continue with protests to stop an Australian mining firm from proceeding with any form of excavation in the park.

The green campaigners have insisted that they would not relent in their opposition to the mining, stating that government has largely ignored the dangers posed by the mining activities to Zambia’s eco-system.

Spokesperson for the environmentalists, Robert Chimambo, said his group would seek all legal avenues to block mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Recently, the Zambian government granted mining rights to Australian firm Zambezi Resources to mine for copper in the national park. However, the protesters are challenging the move as well as questioning he legality and transparency of the entire transaction.

“The opening of a mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park is disasterous for the biodiversity in the area. It is unthinkable for anyone to consider mining in that area,” he said.

“The government should have done wider consultations on this matter. We were not consulted as experts on the environmental impact. We demand dialogue but in the meantime, we are not sleeping but will press on using all the legal means to stop the impending damage of our environment. We are seeking an injunction from the court to block any mining activities,” said Chimambo.

On Friday last week, Chimambo and other green campaigners were arrested by police in riot gear because they staged a protest without a permit.

Chimambo said his group would notify the police of their protests to avoid being arrested because this would derail their campaign.

The environmentalists were arrested outside the Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka were Vice President Dr Guy Scott was having a meeting with managers from Zambezi Resources and Western Australia Premier Collin Barnett.

Dr. Scott declined to issue any statement on the protests against mining in the national park. Chimambo’s group accuses Dr. Scott of having been involved in the deal to issue the disputed license to the Australians to mine, which they allege may be legally deficient.

On the day of arrests, the placard-carrying environmentalists were bundled in a police van by armed men and women and taken to the Lusaka Central Police Station where a warn and caution statement was recorded.

Chimambo said their arrest last week would neither scare them nor dampen their spirits in the fight for the people’s right to a safe and sustainable environment.

He said that if left to proceed, the mining activities in the Lower Zambezi had the potential to destroy the natural habit, posing a danger to numerous species of wildlife.

Although environmentalists have opposed the mining contract, the public media recently reported that some traditional leaders have welcomed the development because it was going to enhance their lives and revive the local economy with jobs. Chimambo and his supporters dismiss the reports in the state media as ‘propaganda’ aimed at pushing through a dirty deal.

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