Minister of Tourism and Arts Ronald Chitotela says there is need to reach a consensus with his counterparts at both the Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Environmental Protection on the proposed mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Speaking during a preliminary engagement meeting with the stakeholders opposed to the decision by Lusaka High Court to throw out a petition by concerned citizens, Tuesday, Chitotela said that efforts were underway to reach a consensus among the three relevant line Ministries relating to the proposed controversial mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park on an acceptable way forward.

The government’s decision to award a mining exploration license to Zambezi Resources has since triggered a severe backlash among a broad range of stakeholders who have roundly objected to any moves for the Australian mining firm to commence operations in one of Zambia’s most pristine national parks.

But Chitotela appealed the appellant to take judicial notice and appeal to the court considering that there were various interest groups on the matter.

“I want to emphasize that climate change is real. So, we’ve taken interest from you, the stakeholders, and I want to assure you that we are actively engaging each other as government. I have already had a preliminary engagement with my counterpart Minister of Mines (Richard Musukwa) and I am requesting the PS (Amos Malupenga), together with his technical team, to begin engaging the Ministry of Mines and Environmental Protection and see how best we can reach a consensus without necessarily undermining the ruling of the Court,” Chitotela said.

He added that the Zambia Wildlife Act No 14 of 2015 gave specific instructions to the Minister of Tourism to ensure that before mining activities took place in any national park, the Minister had to give certain operational conditions to be met by the mining operator.

And Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Forum national coordinator Noah Chongo said the Civil Society respected the rule of law and cherished the dialogue with government.

Chongo requested Chitotela to hear the public outcry based on real issues and the challenges that will be caused by the mining project if it were allowed.

He stressed that Chitotela had the powers vested in him to talk to other Ministers and push for the revocation of the mining license so that national parks could accrue maxing their benefits.
Chongo, a conservationist, said other stakeholders like chiefs and communities had cried out and needed to be heard, and that if need be, the Minister should escalate the matter to President Edgar Lungu.

Meanwhile, a representative of IMPI, a NGO working with communities in the Lower Zambezi, Stephen Mulembeta, warned that villagers in the area were likely to experience the worst cases of human-animal conflicts due to animals that would be pushed away due to mining activities.