Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says permitting mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park will not alleviate poverty in Luangwa District as perceived by chiefs and residents of the area.

Last week, Lusaka Provincial Minister Bowman Lusambo said he had submitted a report to President Edgar Lungu on calls made by local chiefs and residents in Luangwa District to permit mining in the area, as it will reduce poverty and create employment.

One of the local chiefs in the district, senior Chief Mburuma of the Nsenga-Luzi speaking people, had complained to journalists during a media tour on November 16 that his chiefdom was faced with human starvation exacerbated by unemployment.

But in an interview, Sinkamba said the chiefs and the residents should not be cheated that permitting mining in the area would reduce poverty given that existing mining operations on the Copperbelt and North-Western provinces had failed to significantly do so.

“For us, we think that it is important that those chiefs and the community there are informed on the project they are talking about. The project they are talking about is for five years, that is the life-span of the project. And in that five years, it is impossible for that project to alleviate poverty. We have bigger mines very, very big mines compared to what we are trying to put up there,” Sinkamba said.

“In North-Western Province, we have Kalumbila (Minerals Limited) there, the Kansanshi mines we have all sort of mines in that area and those mines have been running since 2005. Are you sure that in the last 15 years that poverty in the last 15 years has been alleviated? The answer is no! Poverty in North-Western Province is still as high as it was before the mining activities started there. So, whoever is trying to cheat those people that poverty will be alleviated is not telling them the truth.”

He reiterated that allowing mining within the national park catchment area will have devastating effects on the wildlife.

“The most important thing is that we should not allow mining to take place in that area. They are saying it is 50 kilometres away, that is too near for wildlife. Wildlife don’t want any disturbances in areas that 200, 500 kilometres metres away; that is why here on the Copperbelt, there are no animals at all. This place was a place for animals, where game parks around here and game management areas. Animals have run away because of mining. So, we want to advise that there is something else they can do without mining because mining has never reduced poverty anywhere in the world and we have cases to show like North-Western, poverty there is still very, very high,” Sinkamba said.

And he accused the PF government of having no interest in protecting the environment.

“The PF government have never been interested in environmental protection. The time they came into government in 2011, the first thing they did was to reduce budget support towards environmental protection from 0.4 per cent to 0.1 per cent. And at the moment, it is the least considered portfolio because when you look at what they contribute towards football and other recreational activities, there is more money there than for environmental protection. Even religious affairs has more money than environmental protection! PF has no interest in environmental protection,” said Sinkamba.