January 07, 2013
Southern carmine bee eaters are found in Lower Zambezi National Park. Photo by: Uncovery.
"This is the right first step the Zambia Environmental Management Agency has taken in this case. Our aim is to see the mining project eventually withdrawn...short-term economic gains should never override long-term benefits to the country," the CEO of Bird Watch Zambia (BWZ) Moses Nyoni, said after hearing of ZEMAs rejection of the proposal.
All mining projects in the park require an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) before they can be given a mining license. The EIS for the Kangaluwi Copper Project was conducted by Geoquest, a company that contracts and consults for the mining sector, including companies like Zambezi Resources. While all EIS have to be approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), some environmental activists question the validity of an assessment that is initially done by the same company looking to mine.
Even as the current copper project was cancelled, Mwembeshi Resources Ltd., a subsidiary of Zambezi Resources, and the company responsible for the Kangaluwi Copper Project, has indicated that there are several areas within the Lower Zambezi National Park that are suitable for mining copper, gold, cobalt or gemstones, sparking fears that eventually a proposition will pass and mining will occur in the park.
Lower Zambezi National Park is a 4,092 square kilometer haven to an array of African wildlife, as well as a popular Zambian tourist attraction. It is currently being considered as a World Heritage Site, and has already been named an Important Bird Area by Bird Watch Zambia (BWZ, formerly Zambian Ornithological Society), one of the groups that strongly opposed the mining project.
Water birds such as the bee-eaters (southern carmine and white-fronted) and fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) are abundant in the park, as well as red-winged pratincole (Glareola pratincola), crested guinea fowl (Guttera pucherani), black eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), various queleas and the Narina trogon (Apaloderma narina). Elephants, buffalo, hippopotamus, and waterbucks can be found along the valley floor, along with kudus, zebras and impalas. The Samango monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis), hyena, and civets are also popular tourist attractions.
Mining company, Zambezi Resources, cites in their September 13th ASX Announcement that the Kanagluwi Copper Project would result in the "development of transport and energy infrastructure including roads and power, employment, training and increased prosperity for more than 500 Zambians, and significant foreign investment in terms of capital and operational expenses." They also said that their key stakeholders, including "conservation groups, traditional owners, chiefs, local communities and local authorities," all of which "had been supportive of the Project when shown the true facts," were surprised when their proposal was rejected and are continuing to appeal the decision under the Environmental Management Act of 2011. They did not specify throughout their reports that the Kanagluwi project would be in the middle of a national park.
Open pit copper mining has serious environmental impacts and can negatively affect biodiversity for years even after the mining has ceased. Copper is a toxic metal that is especially susceptible to aquatic wildlife, like the tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus) and vundu (Heteobranchus longifilis) in Zambezi, along with the water bird population.
While the project has been halted for now, groups like Bird Watch Africa continue to be active in asking the government to prohibit mining in protected areas and lobby the government to prevent ZEMA from overruling their original proposal.
The Narina trogon is also present in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Photo by: Patty McGann.
Lion population falls 68 percent in 50 years
(12/04/2012) African lions, one of the most iconic species on the planet, are in rapid decline. According to a new study in Biodiversity Conservation, the African lion (Panthera leo leo) population has dropped from around 100,000 animals just fifty years ago to as few as 32,000 today. The study, which used high resolution satellite imagery to study savannah ecosystems across Africa, also found that lion habitat had plunged by 75 percent.
Illegal hunting threatens iconic animals across Africa's great savannas, especially predators
(10/25/2012) Bushmeat hunting has become a grave concern for species in West and Central Africa, but a new report notes that lesser-known illegal hunting in Africa's iconic savannas is also decimating some animals. Surprisingly, illegal hunting across eastern and southern Africa is hitting big predators particularly hard, such as cheetah, lion, leopard, and wild dog. Although rarely targets of hunters, these predators are running out of food due to overhunting and, in addition, often becoming victims of snares set out for other species.
South Africa hits another new record in rhino killings
(10/18/2012) Four hundred and fifty-five rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa since the beginning of the year. The number surpasses the record set last year (448) and proves that national efforts to stem poaching have not yet made a dent in actual killings. The mass killing has been spurred on by high demand for powdered rhino horn in Vietnam and China. A traditional curative in Asia, rhino horn has no medicinal properties according to scientists.
Google Earth used to discover unknown forest in Angola, scientists find it full of rare birds
(07/09/2012) An expedition, followed up by some computer hunting on Google Earth, has discovered large remnants of old growth forest, including thriving bird communities, in the mountains of Angola. The Namba Mountains in Angola were expected to contain around 100 hectares of forest, but an on-the-ground survey, coupled with online research, has discovered numerous forest fragments totaling around 590 hectares in the remote mountains, boosting the chances for many rare species.
Ten African nations pledge to transform their economies to take nature into account
(06/11/2012) Last month ten African nations, led by Botswana, pledged to incorporate "natural capital" into their economies. Natural capital, which seeks to measure the economic worth of the services provided by ecosystems and biodiversity—for example pollination, clean water, and carbon—is a nascent, but growing, method to curtail environmental damage and ensure more sustainable development. Dubbed the Gaborone Declaration, the pledge was signed by Botswana, Liberia, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania following a two day summit.