One of Africa’s premier wildlife areas has been targeted for oil exploration.
Shalom Mining has applied to explore for oil and gas in Mana Pools, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, according to a notice in the Zimbabwean Government Gazette.
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 wildlife and serving as the site of a number of luxury lodges that charge $1,000 a night. The heritage site covers 676,600 hectares (1.67 million acres), spanning the Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas,.
“On the banks of the Zambezi, great cliffs overhang the river and the floodplains,” Unesco says, describing the site. “The area is home to a remarkable concentration of wild animals, including elephants, buffalo, leopards and cheetahs.”
Shalom has applied for an exploration license over an area of 130,000 hectares and any objections will need to be lodged by May 19, the Mining Affairs Board said in the notice.
Shalom is a Zimbabwean company, Pfungwa Kunaka, chairman of the board, said, without giving further detail.
“Mana Pools is a protected area under the Parks Act and strictly designated for wildlife use,” Emmanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said in an interview. “We will be making presentations. This is a national asset and our argument is that is always for the protection of the environment and for sustainable use.”
In 2020 Zimbabwe scrapped coal exploration permits that had been granted in the Hwange National Park in the north west of the country after objections by environmental activists.
Updated on May 10 at 9:30 am.