Democratic Party (DP) president Harry Kalaba says it was government’s collective decision to grant Zambezi Resources an environmental impact assessment authorization to carry out mining activities in Lower Zambezi National Park.

But Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says his party will obtain an injunction to restrain mining in the national park because the environmental impact assessment which was granted has expired.

When asked to explain why he authorized the mining activities initially, Kalaba referred this reporter to current government officials, saying they were better placed to deal with the issue.

“I am not in government please spare me! Let those in government deal with it,” Kalaba said.

After about an hour, Kalaba called this reporter back and explained that whatever decision he endorsed was a collective one.

“That was a Cabinet decision. A minister will not just overturn an issue without the approval of either the Cabinet or the President himself. And those who are talking, it is lack of knowing what government is all about. It is not an individual who just does that. Otherwise, if there was anything wrong, I think I would have been fired. That was government’s decision at that time,” said Kalaba.

But in a statement, Sunday, Sinkamba stated that the environment impact assessment had expired.

“As the Green Party, we would like to assure the Nation that no mining will take place in the Lower Zambezi National Park regardless the recent High Court decision. This is on account that the environmental impact assessment authorization which was granted by Harry Kalaba in January 2014 is no longer legally valid and therefore cannot be used by Zambezi Resources as the basis to commence mining in the park. Please note that all environmental impact assessment authorizations have a time limit in which operations should commence from date of grant of such permission,”read the statement.

“Failure to commence operations within three years renders the authorization invalid on grounds of lapse of time. We in the environmental sector respect time. In this case, authorization was granted by Honorable Harry Kalaba in January 2014. This is October 2019 which is more than 5 years from the time the authorization was granted. Now, Regulation 30 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, Statutory Instrument No. 28 of 1997 provides that if, following the preparation of a project brief or environmental impact assessment, an authorization licence, permit or permission has been issued but no land preparation or construction work has started within 3 years, then the developer must re-register with the authorizing agency any intention to develop. The 3 year statutory period lapsed for Zambezi Resources in January 2017,”

Sinkamba advised the mining company to go back to the Ministry of Mines and make a fresh application.

“So, by virtue of Regulation 30, Zambezi Resources, or whatever name the company is now called, should go back to the Director of Mines Safety at the Ministry of Mines to re-submit its intention to mine in Lower Zambezi National Park. This application must be accompanied with a current environmental impact assessment report for review by the Mines Safety Department. Thereafter, resubmitted EIA report will once again be forward to the Zambia Environmental Management Authority for further review and decision,” he stated.

” If both Mines Safety Department and ZEMA approve the re-submitted environmental impact assessment report, only then can mining commence. If either or both authorities reject the report, then no mining will take place. So this is the first level of checkmate. Also, both MSD and ZEMA have a second chance to redeem themselves as credible institutions worth entrusting to responsibly manage the national heritage,”

Meanwhile, Sinkamba stated that his party would petition the constitutionality of mining in sensitive areas such as the Lower Zambezi National Park.

“Whilst Zambezi Resources will be busy resubmitting its environmental impact assessment reports to MSD and ZEMA in line with Regulation 30 of SI 28 of 1997, we the Greens will also petition the constitutionality of mining in ecologically sensitive areas such as the Lower Zambezi National Park. Article 255 of the Constitution of Zambia Amendment 2016 provides principles of environmental and natural resources management and development. In particular, sub-Article 255(d) imposes a duty on all of us to ensure that the conservation and protection of ecologically sensitive areas, habitats, species and other environment shall be done in a sustainable manner,” stated Sinkamba.

“As the Greens, we do not think that mining in Lower Zambezi National Park, which an ecologically sensitive area which hosts sensitive habitats, species and other environmental resources. We think that there is a better way to manage such areas other than through mining. So we want the Constitutional Court to pronounce itself on this grave matter before mining commences. In short, we will obtain an injunction to restrain mining in game parks, including Lower Zambezi National Park until the Constitutional Court decides our petition. This is the Green Party checkmate on the matter. We are in Concourt as early as next.”