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Last updateSam, 31 Jan 2015 10am

Minister breaks ranks with govt over mining licence

Mining licence Zambia - Zambia's Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo has broken ranks with the government over the mining licence given to an Australian firm for a copper project in the lower Zambezi National Park.

As the controversy over the licence deepens, Masebo said her Ministry is against the decision by the Ministry of Lands, Environment and Natural Resources to issue a mining licence to an Australian investor, Mwembeshi Resources, under the parent name of Zambezi Resources in the Lower Zambezi, 180km east of the capital city, Lusaka.

According to local media reports Thursday, Masebo, in her submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism and Arts held under closed-doors last week, said her Ministry feels that the mine project should not go ahead because it would put the existence of the Lower Zambezi National Park at risk.

Journalists were prevented from covering Masebo’s submission to Parliament last week after she requested to have her session held in camera.

The Minister said the mine would also reduce the tourism earnings which benefit government and the local people in the area.

“Government risks losing safari fees amounting to over K 84 million (US$14.7 million) and photographic revenue amounting to over K 9 million (US$1.5 million) if the mine is allowed to exist,” Masebo said.

She said the Ministry of Tourism and Arts follows a policy of sustainable tourism, and that granting of mining rights to Zambezi Resources goes against the principle of sustainable tourism.

“The Ministry’s considered view is that the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection reconsiders its decision to allow mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park,” she said.

The High Court recently granted an injunction against the government’s overturning of an earlier decision to reject a Large Scale Mining Licence for Zambezi Resources’ copper project in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

The decision of the Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Harry Kalaba, to approve the Environmental Impact Statement that will allow mining in Lower Zambezi National Park, was stayed pending the hearing of an appeal. A hearing is scheduled for 18 Feb.

This follows the filing of an injunction last month by the Lusaka-based Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Forum – supported by ActionAid Zambia - which refutes claims made by the Lands Minister that all potential impacts of the project would be addressed by cost effective measures and technologies.

Pana 14/02/2014