Ian Manning.Dr Ian Manning is a chartered environmental and wildlife biologist, and former member of the Zambian Game Department. He has worked in Zambia on and off since Northern Rhodesia days as a tobacco farm-assistant, senior cropping ranger, command warden/biologist, professional safari hunter, conservation project director (black rhino), and private conservation investor. For the last nine years he has been implementing his Landsafe socio-ecological development model for customary areas and associated protected land in two adjoining chiefdoms of the lower Luangwa Valley. As a certified investor, he wrote numerous blogs revealing the illegal alienation of customary and protected land, and the criminal bushmeat and ivory trade. In 2008 he and his family were deported from Zambia; Ian being arrested, imprisoned and then transported by road under guard to the South Africa border. He is the author of With a Gun in Good Country, and the forthcoming, Out of Zambia: a conservation history.
The issue: the proposed mining of the mid-Zambezi Valley in Zambia: uranium mining on customary land and the Game Management Area around Kariba - and immediately downstream; and copper mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park. For more background on the copper mining proposal in the LZNP, read the following Safaritalk article, Say NO to copper mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Can you give us a brief description of the area and the problem.
Well, since you alerted me a few months ago to the proposed mining of the Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP), I have struggled to discover what is happening. As you know the mid-Zambezi area, which takes in both Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the last great fragments of primary nature left on earth. I am horrified that a 25-year Large Scale Mining License for four copper mines - two of them open-pit, has been issued in the middle of the park to Mwembeshi Resources, a subsidiary of the Australian mining company, Zambezi Resources.
What is the latest state of play?
Since receiving their license in February 2011, Mwembeshi have been preparing their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Once that is complete it will be sent to the statutory body within the Ministry of Tourism and Environment responsible for the environment, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) - which recently subsumed the Zambia Environmental Council (ECZ), and then should be made available to civil society for appraisal.
What is Mwembeshi likely to do if they get the go-ahead?
In the region of the old Chakwenga gold mine (closed in 1948 before the area received National Park status) they will establish a mining operation covering a minimum of 50 sq. km on the escarpment portion of the National Park. This will involve an ore processing factory, a dump and tailings dam, two conventional mines and two open-pit mines – and of course mine quarters, workshops and many roads.
Given the obvious destruction of the National Park, how were they issued a mining license in the first place?
As part of their initial application they supposedly complied with the legislation by providing an environmental brief that is supposed to describe the current environmental status quo and give a rough projection of negative impacts and amelioration and mitigation measures that could be implemented.
Have you seen this brief?
No. I wrote to ZEMA in mid-May 2011 but received no reply, then I wrote to one of the officers with whom I had dealt over the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park tourism scheme (involving the illegal alienation of 220 ha of the park to Legacy Holdings). He put me on to an officer at HQ, Joseph Sakala. On 9 June 2011, I asked him to make available a copy of the environmental brief report and progress on the EIS by Mwembeshi’s consultants, GeoQuest, asking when the public would be able to comment. Of course, under the new Zambia Environmental Management Act of 2011, the Ministry of Mines and ZEMA are supposed to release these reports - but the Ministry of Mines is dragging its feet on the matter.
So you had been in touch with the Ministry of Mines?
I wrote to Dr Godwin Beene, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines on 28 May 2011, asking for a copy of the environmental brief. He replied immediately and then copied me in on an instruction to some of his underlings for them to provide the brief for him in short order.
And did you get it?
No. I sent more emails, but silence.
And what about ZEMA and the Zambia Wildlife Authority, who presumably had to approve the brief in the first place? I mean, is mining allowed in National Parks in Zambia?
Under the Wildlife Act of 1998, under section 24, mining companies may enter a National Park and exercise mining rights. But in order to protect a National Park from destruction, it requires, under section 25 (1) the Minister to issue regulations in the form of a statutory instrument (SI) for that purpose.
Which he can do or not as the Minister chooses?
Yes. And even if there are massive objections to the findings of an EIS and ZEMA turns down the mining application in that National Park, the Minister has powers to allow the mining. In fact President Banda recently allowed the Chinese to begin mining at Ichimpe, completely circumventing the EIS and ZEMA process.
But back to your question about ZEMA and ZAWA – fellow statutory sisters - Sakala gave me the name and email of the current Director-General of ZEMA, Paul Banda. On 9 June 2011, I wrote to him asking him for a sight of the brief and also mentioning to him that: ‘I would also like to draw your attention to the ECZ website which currently does not allow access to EIS reports on issues of importance to the Zambezi ecosystem eg: Chiawa Bridge on the Kafue River and the mining development around Siavonga’. The email bounced and further emails received no reply. ZAWA, I did not connect with, as they consider me persona non grata. But they must have given their assent to the issue of the license.
But what about the operators in the area, the safari operators and lodge owners? Have they not done something? After all, their business would be affected. No one wants to visit a park massively affected by mining.
Well yes. I had worked with some of the operators (who form the Lower Zambezi Conservation Trust and the Chiawa Leaseholders Association) in 2010 when we had defeated proposals by Protea Hotels to build a large hotel on the Zambezi. I wrote some of them in May 2011, warning them of the development. They knew nothing of the proposed development but promised to report back. Since then I have heard nothing, even though I have copied them in on some of the correspondence.
So, they are afraid for their businesses?
I suppose so. They might end up like me being Presidentially stiffed.
And what about the uranium mining around Chirundu and Kariba?
A seminal report on the upcoming uranium mining there by the Council of Churches of Zambia, (link here) reveals that one of the companies involved received a mining license without producing a sociological and environmental brief. And there are many villagers in the area as it is customary land.
Another bad story.
I’m afraid so. Uranium is the most deadly metal on earth. You never rid the soil of the radiation, or the water of terrible contamination. And the people…well, you buy them off with a few jobs and payments to local officials and headmen. They are moved, and sickened and impoverished. Welcome to the Plundercene.
So what is the way forward?
Given that ZEMA and ZAWA are largely dysfunctional – mere puppets, along with all other institutions of government, of the entrenched ‘Big Man’ system, one has to rely on one or two donors prepared to stick their neck out; on NGOs – though they have a poor record in advocacy generally - take the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) who lifted not a finger over Mosi-oa-Tunya, and who don’t even mention the mining area on their website, even though they are the punters of the Mana-Lower Zambezi Transfrontier Area. The local operators and their associations are loth to get too involved – criticism being leveled at Conservation Lower Zambezi for having accepted a large donation from Zambezi Resources. Then there is UNESCO, who is currently considering moving LZNP to WHS status. This of course would help, but the memory of what happened at the WHS Mosi-oa-Tunya springs to mind. WHS status is easily circumvented when greed is involved.
But this is all pretty nebulous as opposition to such developments?
It is a worry. There are so many areas of concern now. Activists and the public feel overwhelmed. I now turn towards the increasing activism of faith-based organizations, in Zambia, the Christian churches. The Council of Churches (CCZ) laid out the whole biblical rendition for the stewardship of the earth in their uranium report, an ethical Christian framework for stewardship. This is very exciting. When to this you add that the next government may be the PF who have Christianity and its ethical system of stewardship as its central pillar, we may be advancing into the heart of darkness with some PF lights flickering.
But have the CCZ followed up their report? You told me they had recommended the formation of an independent watch-dog group composed of representatives from the Private Sector, Civil Society, NGOs, Scientists and Medical Experts to champion the interests of the people affected by uranium mining operations.
I have asked them this question, and asked for their specific help on LZNP. But they don’t reply. They may be at a conference - the main obstacle to development; they may have been got at; they may...
So, where are we - and what is happening on the Zimbabwe side?
Well, Mana Pools is of course a World Heritage Site already, and now the area up to and including the lake has been designated a Biosphere Reserve. The Zimbabwe Government are muttering about creating some large lodge concessions on the river, doubtless in suitable industrial-military style with accompanying all weather airstrips. The death of course of what we hold dear. But you cannot deny that so far they are streets ahead of Zambia in conserving the mid- Zambezi Valley.
So, what now?
A new government is required. Zambians need to take this up. But our Oz mates may already be climbing into the Moet…
What will a change in governance mean to conservation policy in Zambia? And what would a new govt mean to the proposed mining of the LZNP and future such mining proposals?
With a new government, one based on a manifesto avowing an ethical structure based on the christian stewardship of nature, we have a chance for an African country to grasp the moment. The PF party coming in , many of whose senior people have been grappling with conservation and development issues for a decade or more, will have to tackle the area of community empowerment and the controlled access and use of natural resources. They will have to deal with neoliberalism, free trade and the pervasive influence of the World Bank and the IMF. They will have to free themselves and the poor from these shackles. Michael Sata promised me he would do away with the Zambia Wildlife Authority - a corrupt and horribly dysfunctional parastatal, and re-instate our old Game Department. And a new government has to empower local communities and protect them from the plunderer invaders who bring with them the Dutch curse of having an excess of non-renewable natural resources. Time here for an alternative way, one based on something they had before the musungu (the white man) came: the guardians of nature, a strong sense of community...
The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk.