Malawi Minister of Natural Resource Energy and Mines Atupele Muluzi has leapt to the defence local non-government organisations (NGOs) and individuals in Karonga for bravely demanding that there is strict adhearance of health and safety to the people of the district by uranium miner Paladin.
Speaking during the interface meeting with the locals at Meghemo hall in Karonga northern district on Thursday evening, Muluzi conceded that the situation at Paladin’s Kayerekela mine project is “worrying.”
He said government need to intervene and also called for international investigation into the project over claims that Paladin’s mine has become a threat to the people’s life.
“Government is for the people and it take the welfare of Malawians as the first priority, now in answering to your question especially on the current status of things at Kayelekera mine, the truth is that things are not in good condition and as am talking tomorrow I will call for an emergency meeting with top concerned officials in various departments to find a way forward on dealing with the problems at the Company,” said Muluzi during the town hall meeting.
” Government’s job is to address the situation and to protect the interests of Malawians,” he added.
Muluzi gave Paladin a 10-day ultimatum to submit a comprehensive report detailing how the tank containing lime and sand sediments burst to its seams due to the storm.
“Investigations must continue. There were mistakes that were made and we must learn from them to avoid a repeat of what has happened. We must get to the bottom of this,” Muluzi said.
He said government will ensure its people are protected and t it takes claims that the Kayelekera mine has begun discharging waste materials into the local river system, seriously and investigations are underway.
“We will fast track the investigations and results will be known to the public. We will make sure that Paladin Company takes full responsibility if anything goes wrong in Karonga,” said Muluzi.
He added: “It is also sad that people are being denied the access to see for themselves the status of things at the company despite being in their own land.
“Next month we are signing the deal with all mining companies that there should be transparency in all mining premises so that everyone should be able to verify, on top of that all the secretive agreements will be made open to the public because those documents are for the people.”
Muluzi stressed that government is committed towards “eliminating the veil of secrecy which overshadows the mining sector .”
He said: “We are striving for greater transparency in the sector even before we sign up to the Extractive Industry Transparency International next month.”
Paladin denied it discharged polluted water into a river, the company said local non-government organisations and individuals openly hostile to the company had made false statements.
The Malawi general manager for Paladin, Greg Walker said the company has done necessary tests and put in place measures to contain the leakage.
The company explained that while it did plan to commence the controlled release of surplus water into the local river system during the monsoonal wet season, the water would be treated to meet Malawi and internationally recognised discharge standards, including World Health Organisation drinking water guidelines for uranium content.
However Paladin said that relatively light and infrequent rainfall meant no water has been treated and released to date.
Parliamentary deputy chairperson of Natural Resource and Climate Change Committee Alex Major expressed his displeasure y with the current situation at the company and that he will take the matter to Parliament.
“I am also very shocked with the situation I have seen after monitoring the mine here and all my questions to the Paladin boss have not been answered satisfactory , “ said Major.
Major said claims about toxic water being discharged into the river have basis.
Kayelekera mine has been in care and maintenance since February 2014 .Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :