Zambia orders halt to work on copper mine in Lower Zambezi park

View of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Stock image.

Zambia’s government on Wednesday ordered mining company Mwembeshi Resources Ltd to immediately halt all activities on the $494 million copper project it is developing in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Collins Nzovu, the minister of green economy and environment, said the company had violated a number of environmental conditions pertaining to the Kangaluwi copper mine.

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency on Wednesday served the company with a compliance order to stop mining-related activities and the construction of roads and buildings at the project, Nzovu said.

He did not specify how long the ban would remain in place.

Mwembeshi Resources spokesperson Oliver Shalala said the company would meet with the environmental agency to discuss the compliance requirements.

“We anticipate resumption of operations as soon as possible,” Shalala told Reuters. “We are a company that respects the law and the government, and we should be able to meet the benchmarks which the government and ZEMA want.”

The company’s plans for the project have been heavily criticized by conservationists who say mining is a threat to wildlife in the park, including elephants, and will hurt a flourishing tourism industry.

They also say toxic chemicals from a planned tailings facility could end up contaminating water in the Zambezi basin, posing a danger to livelihoods.

Conservation Advocates Zambia, which is among organizations lobbying against the mine, said they would press the government to cancel Mwembeshi’s mining licence.

“While we commend ZEMA and the government for this progressive step, we will continue engaging them until the mining licence is canceled,” Mehluli Malisa, a director for CAZ, told Reuters.

(By Chris Mfula and Felix Njini; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jan Harvey)


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