Paladin rejects exploiting Malawi ‘old law’ accusations Clarify ‘maim’ allegations

Paladin has given a clear explanation on an article entitled “Australian miners maiming Malawians, exploiting old law,” written by Collins Mtika, dealing in particular with two former workers at the Kayelekera Mine, Abraham Siliwonde and Francis Mkonda.

The company’s boss  in Malawi, Greg Walker said  both these cases have been aired publicly in the past and the company has responded in detail to the various allegations involved in an effort to set the record straight.

Here is Paladin’s position:

Abraham Siliwonde

This allegation was dealt with comprehensively in 2013. The Paladin Group of Companies regards the health and safety of all employees and contractors as a matter of utmost importance. The Company fully investigated Mr. Siliwonde’s claim, including consulting international radiation experts, before issuing a public announcement on this specific matter to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) on 30 May 2013 (copy attached).

The Company said at the time: “Paladin has reviewed these claims with internal safety and radiation specialists and by a recognised external radiation expert. It has also analysed all routinely collected radiation monitoring data, which was collected in accordance with its standing work procedures during the above period including substantial personal monitoring data from the individual involved.  The results of the review show that the individual received a radiation dose well below the annual radiation dose for workers as stipulated by international radiation protection agencies. Our experts have concluded that the contractor’s loss of sight is unrelated to his low-level radiation exposure.”

Internationally, radiation protection philosophy of uranium mining and processing is based on principles and controls established by the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) Safety Standards.  To protect employees, their annual radiation doses should be below the “effective whole body dose” of 20 milliSievert (mSv), which is the internationally-recognised annual limit of radiation exposure. The uranium ore mined at Kayelekera Mine is in the category of low to medium grade that contains on average 0.1 per cent of uranium. In practice, the majority of workers employed in low to medium ore-grade uranium mines around the world receive an annual radiation dose below 5 mSv.

In your article, Mr Siliwonde alleges that he suffered eyesight damage while working as an ore spotter at Kayelekera Mine. Mr Siliwonde was employed by our mining contractor, Mota-Engil Malawi Limited, on July 13, 2010 as a guard. He was appointed an ore spotter on June 15, 2012 and appointed dump truck operator on July 10, 2012 – in other words, he was employed as a guard for almost two years, an ore spotter for three weeks (which is when he alleges that the damage to his eyesight occurred) and then spent five months as a dump truck operator, before being retrenched by Mota-Engil on 30 November 2012.

PAL follows an approved Radiation Management Plan and provides appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and relevant training to all its personnel engaged in mining and processing of uranium oxide at Kayelekera Mine. All employees working in the open in the mining area are issued with PPE, including dust masks and safety glasses. Employee’s radiation exposure is monitored using Thermo-Luminescent Dosimeter (TLD) badges. These badges are unique to each employee and therefore an individual employee’s annual radiation exposure can be monitored, measured and recorded. PAL sends employees’ TLD badges for analysis and review to the National Centre for Radiation Science (NCRS) in New Zealand – an internationally-recognised and independent testing authority. NCRS reports results to PAL. In turn, PAL provides each employee at Kayelekera Mine with his or her personal results on an annual basis, together with an explanation of their meaning.

Collated results are reported to the Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) by way of an annual report on the PAL Radiation Monitoring Programme.

It should be noted that the results of PAL’s 2012 Programme demonstrate that the mean radiation dose to employees at Kayelekera Mine in 2012 varied from 1.1 to 2.1 mSv – which is far below the internationally-recognized recommended annual limit of 20 mSv, averaged over a period of five consecutive calendar years.

Mr. Siliwonde has also alleged that he and his fellow employees were exposed to “radioactive dust” blowing around the active mining area. The concentration of dust in the pit at Kayelekera Mine is routinely measured and is just one tenth of the recommended nuisance dust level limit. Similarly, the radiation concentration is less than 2 per cent of the derived limit for inhalation (DLI) for uranium ore. In other words, it is well within the accepted safety standards for such operations worldwide.  In addition to the dosimeters referred to earlier, personnel in the mining area are issued with dust pumps to check on dust exposure. A review of Mr. Siliwonde’s monitoring indicates that he was issued with and wore seven dust pumps during 2012 – his last year of employment. Results of this monitoring indicate that Mr. Siliwonde’s radiometric exposure concentrations were either at or below the minimum detection level (MDL) for this monitoring technique.

In regard to Mr Siliwonde’s comment that he could “feel intense heat from heaps of uranium ore” and “would pass yellowish urine and feel malaria-like symptoms the follow day” – uranium ore in situ does not transmit heat. He was feeling radiant heat from the Sun. If he was passing “yellowish urine,” it is likely because he was drinking insufficient water (there are signs up in our workplace urinals urging people to check their urine colour and to ensure that they drink sufficient water – to avoid dehydration and heat stress, not due to any radiation risk). With regard to the “malaria-like” symptoms, these were not so severe as to cause Mr Siliwonde to report his condition to the Onsite Medical Clinic.

The Chief Ophthalmologist at Lions Sight First Eye Hospital in Lilongwe, Dr Joseph Msosa, is quoted as stating that: “The vitritis (posterior uveitis) may indeed be due to exposure to radiation. It is well known that all radioactive substances can cause radiation retinopathy which appears like posterior uveitis.”  Exposure to excessive radiation can be damaging, however – as outlined above – Mr Siliwonde’s radiation exposure was of a very low level and well within prescribed limits.  Radiation and safety experts who reviewed his results concluded that any deterioration in Mr. Siliwonde’s sight was unrelated to this low-level radiation exposure.

While Mr Siliwonde’s medical records are personal and confidential, considering the allegations, I can confirm that during this period he was treated at the Onsite Medical Clinic at Kayelekera Mine for an eye condition that was not related to his employment. Nevertheless, if Mr Siliwonde believes that he has a work-related medical condition, the appropriate action for him to take is to contact his former employer, Mota-Engil, or the Department of Labour, but, to my knowledge, he has never done so, preferring instead to air his allegations through the media.

 Francis Mkonda 

It is alleged that the late Francis Mkonda was dismissed while recuperating from “severe injuries” he sustained while at work at Kayelekera Mine.   It is further alleged that the Company cited the reason for his dismissal as being “huge hospital bills saying it was constrained financially hence it could not pay.” Neither statement is true.

Mr. Francis Mkonda was engaged as a Process Operator with PAL from 2009 until January 2013, when he was retrenched along with other employees in a restructuring that was announced publicly at the time.  His role was made redundant and his subsequent retrenchment was unrelated to his medical condition.

Mr. Mkonda did not suffer “severe injuries” at work. He fell down while walking home from work after clocking off on Thursday, 17 January 2013. Mr Mkonda was treated at the Site MedicalClinic at Kayelekera and then conveyed by Company ambulance to Karonga District Hospital (KDH) for further treatment.

PAL respects the confidentiality of employee medical conditions and treatment; however, since this matter was brought to the attention of the media at the time, the Company can advise that Mr. Mkonda had a documented pre-existing history of medical problems, dating back to 2009, which inhibited his movement and caused him to spend a great deal of time off work.  Despite that, his employment continued until the time of his retrenchment.

In 2012, Mr. Mkonda was referred by the Site Medical Clinic to an orthopaedic hospital in Blantyre, where he was diagnosed with a “severe underlying pathological condition,” which was not workplace-related. It is likely that this was the cause of his fall and injury – and subsequent unfortunate demise.

PAL complies strictly with Malawi Labour Law in relation to all aspects of employee relations, including fair treatment of employees who may be injured at work – which the late Mr. Mkonda was not.

In regard to the handling of workplace injuries, PAL has very strict protocols which comply with -and go considerably beyond – the basic requirements of Malawi Law:

  • All such injuries are reported to the relevant authorities; medical costs associated with them are covered by the Company and/or its insurers. Employees concerned are given full pay for the amount of time that it takes for them to recover fully. We have had cases where this has continued for longer than 12 months. In the case of permanent disability, compensation is also paid in accordance with legal provisions.
  • In the case of illness/incapacity – as with the late Mr. Mkonda – first response is to provide paid sick leave, again in accordance with the provisions of Malawi Law, which is extremely generous by international standards, providing as it does for four (4) weeks of leave on full pay and a further eight (8) weeks of leave on half pay – which is usually more than sufficient to cover any acute conditions.
  • For chronic conditions which impact on the ability of the individual to continue working or to return to work after sick leave, consideration can be given to termination of service due to certified medical incapacitation.  Notwithstanding, Mr. Mkonda was included among a group of 95 employees whose positions were identified as being redundant at the start of 2013 and he was retrenched with all of the benefits provided for in such cases by Malawi Law. Like other retrenchees, Mr Mkonda was paid an additional ex-gratia amount of one extra month’s salary. Contributions to the Company pension fund were also made on his behalf by PAL, dating back to the commencement of his service with PAL in 2009. Hence he received more benefits than his entitlement if his employment had been terminated on grounds of medical incapacitation.

Mr Mkonda did not die “a few days” after his retrenchment in January 2013, as your correspondent erroneously states. He passed away almost eight months later on 11 September 2013. In spite of the fact that Mr Mkonda was retrenched, the Company continued to pay for his medical aid until July 2013.  Death Benefits from Old Mutual were paid out on 03 December 2014, following issuance of his death certificate.

Meanwhile

Paladin has also rejected accusations that state “Siliwonde and Mkonda are just a microcosm of the many employees who were happy to get work at Kayelekera Uranium Mine but left forsaken, disgusted or died paupers,” saying there is no evidence to support this contention.

On accusation that Australian mining companies are involved in the “killing and maiming of miners and residents across Africa through dangerous, unsustainable and illegal mining practices”, Paladin says such is unreasonable, unfair and unfounded and has been referred to the relevant authorities in Australia for an appropriate response, which no doubt will be forthcoming.

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15 thoughts on “Paladin rejects exploiting Malawi ‘old law’ accusations Clarify ‘maim’ allegations”

  1. The Patriot says:

    Imperialism will never stop! The Imperialist will do everything to make profits! Only God will punish these multinationals who prey on poor third world countries! Cry my beloved Karonga! I wish I was powerful enough , I would have made Greg pay for the suffering of my people!!

  2. chinkombaleza gumanyundo gowa says:

    defense in science is based on facts of science. I have experienced issues claiming compensation where it is not due. Let us be facing the facts before bubbling issues that have no basis for a cause. YOU DOCTORS DO YOUR HOME WORK thoroughly, and based on scientific findings and not just for the sake of helping out others or guess work. I think you have dented the image of PAL for no apparent reason. If you want, you can get the facts from professionals from responsible ministries. Many diseases can cause a sudden blindness e.g. Diabetes and hypertension the doctors can agree. Do we have specialist doctors in Radiations?. Please help explain these things otherwise people have very negative perceptions for nothing with PAL.

  3. Sayimoni Bayisikolo says:

    The Caucasians are very good at covering each others asses.Kayelekera is building Australia while the owners of the resources are living substandard life.The mzungu are very good at selecting words when defending themselves.
    Why is Malawi using old legislative laws that do not benefit its country while it claims to have a hoarde of learned lawyers?

  4. zandile says:

    The biggest problem is govt. It is just quiet instead of defending its own people. Does this country have leaders?

  5. Justus Pasadu says:

    This Collins Mtika guy is very dangerous. He calls his self one of the best journalists in Malawi yet hus reports are emotional as his motto is “Ndikuotchani”. What has happened now? He went to stories that The Sunday Times carried two years ago (you can go to your archives and check) yet this Mtika, who is enemies with almost everyone in Mzuzu where, presented the issue as a thing of yesterday. He used a picture of Siliwonde, and one wonders why he failed to get fresh information. I saw it coming because he failed on basic journalistic principles. That said, the reason why Paladin did not make noise when The Sunday Times carried these stories is that Greg Walker was confronted with FACTS. And in case you didn’t know, that is the only way you can pin him down. It is reported that Greg mastered propaganda and you will not defeat him when you come to him with speculations. Ask anyone who has dealt with him. Respectable journalists come back from him completely knocked off their story lines. If you read his reaction line by line, you will notice that he is contradicting himself. If this Mtika guy were not emotional, he should have built on the stories The Sunday Times carried to further his. Unfortunately, he has always believed that he is the best on the land thus he cannot properly acknowledge other people’s achievements. In the story about Mkonda in The Sunday Times Greg argued that Mkonda was well while working at Kayerekera. Mkonda said he joined Kayelekera a healthy man but while there, he started feeling weakness in the bones. He fell right within the processing plant not on his way home. His situation went deteriorating until the fall. And today, Greg accepts that by writing “…that might be the cause of the fall.” Mtika quotes The Sunday Times without properly acknowledgement. Mkonda did not die shortly later. He died on September 11 2013 when he was fired in February. He got his dismissal letter while at St John’s in Mzuzu. It is St John’s and not Paladin that referred him to Beit Cure for further examination after noticing that his bones were not healing. Greg Walker has argued all along that Paladin could not pay for Mkonda’s bills because he was not on its payroll, having been fired. Mkonda paid from what he received as ma bonus a retrenchment and that was supported by his MASM contributions. Fotseki akuba inu ndi mnzanu uja anatsamira nkono uja.

  6. concerned citizen says:

    Greg Walker is a liar,not befitting a white man. He is so arrogant and too pompous for nothing. Stop using bad language from your stinking mouth.how can you say that the two gentlemen are just microcosm of employees who were happy to get work at kayelekera and left disgusted,forsaken and died paupers? This is typical of rudeness and undermining the dignity of Malawians.you deserve deportation.this manifests itself how you paladin azungus illtreat our friends there. Please Malawi govt have you engaged the Labour ministry to find our how malawians are treated at kayelekera? This is your time. I hear there is a human resources boer woman who is treating malawians as in prison cells. One day she just woke up in acting capacity only for that day when the GM was away and she fired the lady who was managing the stores just because the post was being held by a Malawian. This lady wad hardworking and worked tirelessly for the company.This is racial discrimination.

  7. Ababa Thamangiwa. says:

    a Tumbuka ngati mumazithemba limbanani ndinzungu wamwano nzanuyu.

    1. Yosefe Langwani says:

      The issue at Kayelekera is not only for Tumbukas but of people all over of Malawi who are working there. Your tribal sentiments has got nothing to do with this issue.

  8. concerned citizen says:

    Paladin is lying. Results of radiation TLDs takes time to come. At one time mine workers had to request results and mostly the results are fake and cooked. People also asked for routine medical checkups and were denied. The cases of these two gentlemen are genuine and paladin shudnot runaway. As for the one who suffered injury, there was also another guy who was injured on duty and right now he is suffering and permanently disabled. This guy was denied a plane so many times when it is time for medical check up. Imagine he was using a bus from karonga to Blantyre and yet he was eentitled to the plane that used to come twice a week. The then general manager, a boer even used to tell him that he is faking by using clutches. This was very annoying and disappointing. When people were retrenched, he was the first on the list. He was packed together with people heading to Lilongwe like bags of cement while enduring the pains of his leg. They arrived in Lilongwe heavily exhausted. The guy tried all he could to get compensated and was only given k1.8 million. Imagine the guy has permanent disability. He tried to complain to labour officials and the commissioner had to exhaust all his energy to ask Paladin to compensate the guy as per requirement. Unfortunately these boers with the crooked mafia greg walker. Never responded. As I am writing now the guy is helpless. It is very true that paladin I’ll treats Malawians unlike obwera. They suffer a lot and treated like second class citizens in their own land. but since we are used to yes bwana, nothing happens .

  9. Mtupatupa says:

    The poor have no choice

  10. mbuzi says:

    Mr Greg walker… the story written by Collins Mtika is not focusing on the two former employees only. Its looking at how companies like yours systematically exploit Malawi, its mineral resources and its people by taking advantage of the weak and old legislations the country has. Your companies are not charity and are always on the look out to maximise profits. Paladin has not helped Malawians but the type of you people and its shareholders. SO THE CRAP YOU HAVE WRITTEN ABOVE DOES NOT ADD VALUE TO ANYTHING.

  11. Tell the truth says:

    Greg Walker should be deported. That’s the first step against these Neocolonalists who want to enslave us. Come on Kyungu deport this racists you promised us.

  12. Alex Likoswe says:

    No time to read this crap

    1. kumunda says:

      That’s why these wazunguzi are taking advantage of us. We have to read these things. They used what they call experts on this issue who are all wazunguzi while defending their own interests and not the interests of Malawians. They use their own people to defend their corrupt ways. So let’s read what these people are writing and expose their evil minds.

    2. Kauswe says:

      ndawerenga! mlandu wonse awuvomera izi ndi mbava zakupha ndi kuononga

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