The green allure of Zambia’s ethical emerald mines
Recently John Burton, World Land Trust (WLT) CEO, carried out a site visit at Gemfields’ ethical emerald mine in Zambia. Among the aims of the visit was to assess ways of protecting and enhancing the natural forests surrounding the Kagem mine, as well as creating new habitat within the mine itself.
Gemfields is one of WLT’s corporate supporters, who we have also collaborated with in the past, raising £80,000 for the India Elephant Corridors appeal during the Emeralds for Elephants event in 2010. We now plan to work together to create an initiative that will tackle the environmental problems associated with gem mining. John said:
“One of the challenges of open pit mining is that once the gems have been excavated, mining companies move on to another area. However, this does give an opportunity for restoration ecology, and the actual area of impact is often very small.”
Gemfields has already proven their commitment to tackling both the social and environmental issues that are associated with the mining industry; they provide much needed resources to schools and medical centres, they run capacity building programmes with local farmers, and take every step to minimise the mine’s impact on the environment. Yet they are eager to do more to conserve biodiversity and plan to set-up a conservation management system for the 10,000 acres surrounding the Kagem mine. Anna Haber, head of PR and Marketing at Gemfields, said:
“Mining historically has always been small scale so companies haven’t necessarily been in a position — or had the inclination — to consider the environment, to give back to local communities, or the Earth. However, we’re in the fortunate situation to have the finances, the foresight, and the desire to create a sustainable industry.”
Gemfields funded this WLT site visit as the first stage towards fulfilling their aim of protecting and managing their part of the Miombo landscape for the benefit of wildlife. Zambia’s Miombo Woodland is one of the largest eco regions in Africa, providing habitat for a diversity of species, including the endangered African elephant and Black rhino. There are no formal records of the species living with the Kagem mine area, yet during a walk near the mine John identified many mammal tracks, including what was thought to be a Mongoose, an antelope species called Duiker, and a small cat species. John said that past hunting in the area had probably made the animals shy so sightings of them are rare, although the forest clearly still supports interesting populations. Following the trip, WLT recommended that Gemfields initiate a full biodiversity assessment of the mining area and look towards a long term programme with WLT, hopefully resulting in the establishment of a new nature reserve in the 10,000 acre area. This initiative to regenerate Gemfield’s land will create a natural haven for wildlife and secure the area’s long-term protection. WLT and Gemfields aim to collaborate with local experts on the project, who will complete a biodiversity survey of the area and make recommendations for its future management. This will utilise the knowledge and expertise found within local Zambian institutions, a key aspect of WLT’s overall mission of developing partnerships with local organisations to engage support and commitment among the people who live in project areas. John said:
“Seeing the mining operation first hand was a fascinating insight, and I am convinced that working with Gemfields will lead to significant progress in conserving Zambia’s wildlife. This was reinforced by very productive meetings with the Minister of Mines, and many other senior Zambia officials.”