In order for environmental impact statements to be effective, they must be comprehensive and appropriately address all consequences of a proposed project that are expected to have substantial influences on the environment. Regrettably, many impact statements are not conducted in a thorough manner that aptly analyzes all potentially adverse effects of a proposed project, leading to rejection of the project proposal. A case in point of environmental impact study inadequacy is found in the Australian company Zambezi Resources Ltd.’s impact statement regarding a future open cast mine for copper in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia (Mutterback 201; Zambezi Resources 2012; Udoh 2012). However, though the inadequate impact statement of the project proposal is the main focus of most articles on the topic, large issues regarding the proposed mine are reason enough to reject the project (Udoh 2012; Chulu 2012).
The proposed project—called the Kangaluwi Project—is located in the middle of the Lower Zambezi National Park, a protected area that is renowned for being “one of the few pristine wilderness areas left in Africa” as it has been an official protected area since the 1980’s and was previously preserved as a royal game reserve (IUCN 2012; Udoh 2012).
The location of Zambezi Resources Ldt.’s Kangaluwi project.
As with other large infrastructure projects in Zambia, an environmental impact study (EIS) must be conducted by the proponent before obtaining a license to mine, and an impact statement is to be submitted to the Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) for approval and a subsequent assessment (ZEMA 2013; Udoh 2012). Zambezi Resources Ldt.’s EIS was commissioned to GeoQuest, a consulting company that conducts impact studies for the mining industry (GeoQuest 2013; Mutterback 2013). After a review that was conducted in light of complaints by lobbyists who were concerned that the environmental impact statement was speculative and vague in sections concerning likely substantial consequences of the project, ZEMA rejected the project proposal (Chulu 2012). The rejection from ZEMA resulted in the nullification of the government-granted mining license obtained by Zambezi Resources Ltd. to mine in the national park for a quarter century (Mutterback 2013; Zambezi Resources 2011). Many wonder how a license to mine in a pristine national park was granted in the first place (Mutterback 2013).
Though Zambezi Resources Ltd. claims that the proposed project will be beneficial to locals through the creation of jobs, public concerns are that long-term negative consequences of the mine will be overwhelming (Mutterback 2013; Muganya 2012). ZEMA agreed with lobbyists that the EIS performed by GeoQuest failed to adequately address several long-term costs of the project (Chulu 2012). For example, the extent to which dewatering in the open-pit mine would affect the groundwater levels of the vicinity were hastily dismissed in the EIS (Chulu 2012). Also, little mind was paid to the fact that the storage of dangerous tailings was planned in an area prone to earthquakes (Muganya 2012). Furthermore, not enough attention was paid to the fact that the project plan may seriously impact an important bird area in the national park, which is home to many birds that are attractive to tourists (BirdLife Africa 2012). The project is expected to cost the country much revenue in ecotourism, as the notably scenic national park is an asset to the country that will be impacted by the presence of an unsightly open-pit mine (Muganya 2012).
The Glareola pratincola is stunning bird that is found in the national park and threatened by prospective mining activities (BirdLife Africa 2012; Mutterback 2013).
Though this case study may place a lot of blame on the GeoQuest consulting company that was hired for preparing an inadequate EIS, it is important for stakeholders and observers to realize the faults of the proponent. The consultants in this case have a very practical job to follow through with: to perform an EIS with regards to their employer’s proposed project. Granted, GeoQuest’s EIS was faulty in that it was speculative and ambiguous, fundamental issues with the project lie in the fact that the proponent did not meaningfully consult with stakeholders to identify key issues that should be addressed before project execution, and they did not openly address the fact that they were planning a project on protected land (Booth & Skelton 2010). Though the incomplete EIS called for the project to be rejected, perhaps a more comprehensive EIS would merely certify that the proposed project should remain rejected after Zambezi Resources Ltd. appeals for another chance without serious project alterations (Udoh 2012).
BirdLife Africa. 2012, September 27. Hope as copper mining at lower Zambezi IBA put on hold. BirdLife International Website: News. Online at: http://www.birdlife.org/community/2012/09/hope-as-copper-mining-at-lower-zambezi-iba-put-on-hold/. Retrieved 01/12/2013.
Booth, A. & Skelton, N. 2010. Industry and government perspectives on First Nations’ participation in the BC EA process. EIA Review 31: 216-225.
Chulu, Kabanda. 2012, June 8. Environmentalist cautions government on Kangaluwi copper project. The Post Online Website. Online at: http://www.postzambia.com/post-read_article.php?articleId=27729. Retrieved 01/14/2013.
GeoQuest. 2013. Environmental Impact Assessment. GeoQuest Website: Environmental Services. Online at: http://www.geoquest.co.zm/environmental-services/environmental-impact-assessment/. Retrieved 01/16/2013.
IUCN. 2012. Worldwide Protected Areas Visual Database. Protected Planet Website: Explore. Online at: http://www.protectedplanet.net. Retrieved 01/20/2013.
Muganya, Nchimunya. 2012, November 1. ZEMA rejects Lower Zambezi open pit mine. Times of Zambia Website. Online at: http://www.times.co.zm/?p=17900. Retrieved 01/10/2013.
Mutterback, Caillie. 2013, January 7. Environment ministry drops copper mine in Zambezi park. Mongabay News Website. Online at: http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0107-mutterback-lower-zambezi.html. Retrieved 01/09/2013.
Udoh, Nse. 2012, September 13. Zambezi Resources Denied Copper Mine Proposal in Game Park. Zambia Reports Website. Online at: http://zambiareports.com/2012/09/13/zambezi-resources-denied-copper-mine-proposal-in-game-park/. Retrieved 01/18/2013.
Zambezi Resources. 2012. Kangaluwi Copper Project; Corportate Update. Zambezi Resources Website: Documents. Online at: http://www.zambeziresources.com/_content/documents/945.pdf. Retrieved 01/20/2013.
Zambezi Resources. 2011, February 11. Zambezi License Application for Kangaluwi Copper Project Approved by Zambian Authorities. Zambezi Resources ASX Announcement. Online at: http://www.zambeziresources.com/_content/documents/862.pdf. Retrieved 01/18/2013.
Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). 2013. Environmental Legislation. ZEMA Website. Online at: http://www.zema.org.zm/index.php/environmental-legislation/cat_view/41-environmental-management-acts?limit=5&limitstart=0&order=name&dir=ASC. Retrieved 01/14/2013.