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Safari camp operators in Zimbabwe challenge oil drilling at world heritage site

by Kevin JiangAntony Sguazzin and Godfrey Marawanyika
21 May 2023 at 08:16hrs | Views
The operators of safari camps charging more than $1 000 (~R20 000) a night have lodged objections against a planned oil exploration programme in Zimbabwe's premier wildlife area, Mana Pools.

African Bush Camps, which offers destinations across the country including at Nyamatusi Camp in Mana Pools, said in a 15 May letter to the Mining Affairs Board that granting Shalom Mining the permit would exacerbate global warming and biodiversity loss. Wilderness Safaris, which operates three camps in Mana Pools, also said it has objected.

Mana Pools lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River that serves as the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The river braids across a flood plain, attracting herds of elephants and buffalo and providing habitat for lions, cheetahs and leopards.

Mana and surrounding areas have been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"Thousands of tourists come to Zimbabwe every year to experience the beauty and wildlife and especially the gem that is Mana Pools," African Bush Camps said in the letter. "Any notion of prospecting will erode tourists' confidence, not only Mana Pools, but in Zimbabwe as a whole."

Nyamatusi charges tourists as much as $1 185 a night. Wildnerness charges $1 500 per night per person sharing at its Chikwenya camp.

The heritage site covers 676 600 hectares, spanning the Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas. Shalom has applied for an exploration license over an area of 130 000 hectares. Friday was the last day for objections to be lodged.

"We have received responses and these will be tabled before the Mining Affairs Board," Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura said in an interview. A date for the board to meet is yet to be set, he said.

In parliamentary debates this week lawmakers asked why the permit was being considered when there is a policy of not allowing mining in protected areas. Kambamura said in parliament that part of the application covered an area that wasn't protected and it had to go through due processes.

Zimbabwe scrapped coal exploration permits in 2020 that had been granted in the Hwange National Park in the north west of the country after objections by environmental activists.

Source - Bloomberg