Co-founder of Grassroots Trust Limited Rolf Shenton says the government’s decision to allow mining activities that have a five-year life span to take place in the Lower Zambezi National Park are not worth endangering the area’s natural biodiversity.

In an interview, Shenton warned that mining could cause damage to the environment.

“The Copperbelt has proved that any part of Zambia is very fragile and mining, if continued to be done the way it was done a hundred years ago, can cause tremendous damage to the environment. And the basic rules of mining are 100 years or more. In that context, the proposal to do mining in a protected area, which was designed to protect some of our biodiversity for future generations, there really has to be a very good argument to justify destroying the little biodiversity that is remaining. The problem with this application was that it looked like there was a bit of economy of truth somewhere because the original plan was that there was a very high deposit and this mine will be richer than all the other mines in Zambia put together. If that had been the case, I think the country was right to consider it. But later on, we found that instead of 28 per cent of copper there, (there) was only 0.74 per cent, and instead of having a life-span of decades, the small deposits was only a five-year life span,” Shenton said.

“Now, why would we want to sacrifice one of the last remaining areas of biodiversity in the country for a five-year reserve? It looks like somebody is not telling the truth in this thing. Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) picked it up and they have reported that this is not a viable proposal; it is definitely not worth sacrificing our precious biodiversity. And for some reason, Honorable Kalaba was the (Lands) Minister at that time and overruled ZEMA during the period when the president (Michael Sata) was dying, the court accepted the injunction and it has been quiet for five years…now all of a sudden, the courts have ruled? I don’t know if it is a technicality.”

And he said there was need for caution on the new mining proposals.

“We need to start thinking about what Zambia needs to look like in the next thousand years so that this land can continue to support human population. It is understandable that people are looking for quick money, but really, the long-term is that copper and oil will run out, and we will be stuck with making a living from the soil again. Generally, If we are going to have new proposals on mining for quick money, we need to have a much more robust discussion about it and ask how it will help the country in the long-term and how it will affect the environment. Lower Zambezi is a link between Kafue National Park and Luangwa Valley and destroying it would be a bad decision,” warned Shenton.