Zambia scraps plans to build giant copper mine in national park

The Lower Zambezi National Park is home to elephant herds, hippos, leopards, lions, buffalos, and over 400 bird species. (Image courtesy of Lower Zambezi.)

Zambia’s government cancelled on Wednesday a polemic plan to allow the construction of a major copper mine in a national park by the Zambezi river.

The news comes only a week after the country’s High Court authorized Australia-listed Mwembeshi Resources to build a massive copper mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park, a haven for endangered wildlife that attracts thousands of tourists a year.

Lower Zambezi Park covers an area of 4,092 square kilometres (1,579 sq miles) and sits opposite Mana Pools National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site

It also follows a plea by Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president to leave the park untouched. Kaunda, who created the park during his 27 years in office, said the Kangaluwi copper project posed “the biggest threat in history to the wildlife and pristine wilderness that has survived so many centuries of challenges.”

Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela, said the park will remain closed to mining until the country’s environmental regulator completes a fresh report on the potential impacts of extractive activities in the area. The last study, Lukasa Times reports, expired in 2017.

The plan to create a mine in the park, 174km (108 miles) south-east of the capital, Lusaka, has faced relentless opposition. Together with environmental activists and the tourism minister, detractors include the Economic Association of Zambia and others who warn mine pollution will harm the park and Zimbabwe’s nearby Mana Pools National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mwembeshi Resources is registered in Dubai, but it’s owned by China-based Grand Resources Ltd.

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