Paladin starts discharging treated water into Malawi river system

The Paladin (Africa) Limited company has finally started disposing its treated dam water from Kayelekera uranium mine near Karonga in the northern part of Malawi into the local Sere – North Rukuru river system which drains its waters into Lake Malawi.

Walker: Safe water

Walker: Safe water

Paramount Chief Kyungu: Am not aware

Paramount Chief Kyungu: Am not aware

Paladin Africa Managing Director in Malawi, Greg Walker, confirmed to Nyasa Times that the company, indeed, started releasing the treated water into the river system on 12th April, after  providing 48 hours’ notice to the Government of Malawi (GoM) as required.

An eight person government team, representing Water Resources Department (WRD) and Environmental Affairs Department (EAD), travelled to Kayelekera to be present when the discharge process commenced. The District Commissioner’s Office was also informed, as was the local community leadership.

Walker said the uranium miner is treating the waste water to prevent any hazards to people before releasing it into Sere River and that the process is proceeding smoothly and without incident.

He said government, through WRD and EAD, was monitoring the treatment process and that it is satisfied the waste water can be safely discharged into the river.

”We submitted an application (to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development) to discharge surplus runoff water into the river system in July 2014.

The government’s National Water Resources Management and Development Committee met in September 2014 and recommended approval of the application. The Minister for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development approved the 12-month licence in October last year.

The licence sets stringent discharge conditions, consistent with international guidelines including allowing for an average monthly concentration of uranium in the treated water discharge of less than 0.03mg/litre, which meets the World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water guideline.

Walker said that, as a result of these stringent conditions, the treated water represented no harm to people drawing water for domestic purposes from the river system downstream from KM, or to the environment. He said the Company was testing the water every six hours, with water samples being analyzed at its own laboratory at Kayelekera.  Samples were also sent to an independent certified laboratory in South Africa for check testing, while government officials were conducting their own sampling and monitoring programme.

The company said that this action was necessary to deal with rainfall runoff water captured at Kayelekera which previously was recycled and used in the processing of uranium ore.  Paladin suspended production at Kayelekera last May and is maintaining the plant on “care and maintenance” pending a restart when the price of uranium improves to a level where Kayelekera can produce profitably.  The Company said it was necessary to have a controlled release of treated water in order to avoid any possibility of an unplanned discharge of water from the storage ponds at Kayelekera if the ponds should fill and overflow.  The company has modified a section of the processing plant at KM to enable it to treat water to remove contaminants prior to release.

Walker added that the treated water is diluted with river water before being discharged into the river system.  “To put things into perspective, we are adding 0.09 per cent to the average flow of water in the Sere-North Rukuru River, that’s just nine litres of treated water for every 10,000 litres of water already flowing down the river system.

“Government experts have thoroughly checked out our process and the safeguards put in place. They are satisfied that the process is quite safe, otherwise they would not have allowed us to proceed,” he said.

“The application was assessed by WRD and the technical committee with a recommendation made to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Mines,” explained Walker.

The approval recommendation was made to the Ministry is Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development  and the licence was issued by the Minister for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.  Because it has to do with water, it does not directly involve the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, although that Ministry was represented on the government delegation that went to Site late last year.  Monitoring is being carried out by WRD and EAD.

Chairperson for the Natural Resource Justice Link Network Kossam Munthali said “we are so surprised that government and Paladin Africa have not respected our petition which we handled over in November. Our stand remains the same that we are not in support of it whether treated or not treated.”

Paramount Chief Kyungu denied the allegation that he was present when Paladin Africa was briefing government officials that they will start draining the waters.

“I am not aware of the development, so as of now I don’t know anything on the issue because my stand remain that am not in support of the idea,” said Kyungu.

Sere River flows into North Rukuru River, then into Lake Malawi.

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21 thoughts on “Paladin starts discharging treated water into Malawi river system”

  1. Hello! says:

    Are there any standards set by the government regarding the maximum contaminant level that Paladin is allowed to discharge into the river? If not, how is the government going to monitor or determine whether or not the company is discharging the treated wastewater at a quality that does not compromise environmental health? The Ministry of Energy and Mines should not do these things single-handedly. There is need for collaboration between this ministry and the Ministry of Health so that we don’t put the people’s lives at risk.

  2. Vinjeru says:

    i see there is a lot of misunderstanding on this matter from certain circles who believe that they are well informed. Knowing about Israel or Califonian exploits is what used to make me a “dolo/Anjiba/Katakwe” when growing up. Later on i realised that head knowledge about issues is stupid – thats why u have poor professors. What we need to focus on is the question whether your so called technologically advanced Kayerekera treatments system meets the standard. I for one will confidently tell you that the CSO staff can easy tick certain boxes on the test chart – does this meant that the standards have been met?? Lets look at the integrity of the supervisory work. All we have to do is ask for an audit on them by say the international Greenpeace (if the can do that)- simple

  3. kabotolokamo says:

    Walker should be asked if he can drink the water , simple … asah sukulu yake yiti ?

  4. Mazande says:

    Do u know that there are plans to treat bad ocean water for drinking purposes in California because of drought? Israel also does it I think. And so does the UAE. My point is there are technologies out there for treating water to different kinds of standards, some maybe expensive but they still treat the water and make it safe. Google desal / desalination plants. It’s all applied science and Paladin is doing such advanced stuff in Malawi. This could probably be the most advanced water treatment system in Malawi and some stupid people are tying to stop it so that the tailings pond can overflow. Dumbness in Malawi. Unbelievable.

  5. Mandede says:

    Why don’t you reporters and your greedy CSOs (who don’t have the welfare of Malawians at heart but are only making noise to fill up their pockets) say anything about all those industries that are really destroying the environment in Blantyre? Just take a look at midi river. I think we have companies that do not follow Malawi standards for discharge of effluents in the environment laughing their way to the bank everyday because these so called CSOs don’t really care about the nation. Stop focusing on Paladin, they are a technically sound company who are subject to stringent international standards. Take all those companies that are polluting Mudi river to task. And that will just be the start. Useless CSOs. And you guys from the media, do your research right. Actually look for information that will enrich the knowledge of Malawians. Write real science articles, get information from real scientists. Get some brains behind your writing.

  6. Xinqiu says:

    Search for world nuclear association on google. You can also visit the documents and publications web page of the IAEA. These are reputable organisations and have lots of information on radiation safety including that for uranium mining.

  7. chinkombaleza gumanyundo gowa says:

    Are you aware that sewage water can be treated and be safe for drinking? Are you aware that many industries dispose water into the rivers after treatment here in Malawi? What matters is to ask yourself if this treated water can be safe. You C SO’s why don’t you become part of monitoring team as observers of every process for you to confirm whether this water is safe or not. If you want industries you can not do without releasing the wastes but before this waste is released to the rivers it has to be treated first and that’s what Kayerekera is doing.

  8. Eliam k says:

    Kodi tidzingomva za kayelekela?bwanji anthu amenewa angochokako kumeneko kusiyana ndikuti awononge chilengedwe

  9. belekiya says:

    Let Greg Walker drink that water if he feels it is safe. He never even spends a single night in the mine area where he accommodates Malawians

  10. odomondo says:

    What else do you expect from from Water Resources Board.Kayelekera Mine provide huge amounts of allowances (34,000 per night ) to these big headed officers including fuel from Lilongwe to Kayerekera and back,not forgeting breakfast and lunch and you expect them to go against the wishes of kayerekera.I totally agree with you Vinjeru,instead of the so called water resources board to involved internationally recognised labs in certifying whether the waste water is indeed free from uraniun or not,they have done nothing of sort…….why….they are benefiting from it.

  11. Patrick kauma says:

    This is playing with the lives of people for monetary gain.Do you know how devastating a mishap can be if radioactive material is released into the lake?Bhopal in India and Chernobyl in Russia were both managed by educated by educated people too.The dangers of nuclear energy have been well documented.Very soon there will be oil rigs all over that lake adding more enviromental risks to it.Does the government have the capacity to monitor all this?That lake is doomed

  12. chimboro says:

    Why should every one be interested in checking whether the waste water is safe to be discharged into the river but fail to monitor if water boards supply you with std drinking water.

  13. Malindima says:

    The Title of this article is misrepresenting what actually is happening. No uranium waste is being discharged into the rivers. The uranium waste should be trapped in the tailings dams and only the water from these dams is treated making it safe to the public. The water MUST go somewhere from the dams else the dams will overflow making it even more hazardous to the public.

  14. Malindima says:

    This is mining! There are many good water treatment plants applied in the mining industry to recycle the water making it also safe to the rivers, lakes and oceans.
    I have no doubt about the process. Thus how it works!

  15. nyaka1 says:

    Destroyers like kyungu and walker are irrelevant in all walks of Life

  16. Kokotowa says:

    Basi tifa tonse koma atayambilire ndi atumbuka!

  17. Mwadala chifukwa mwadziwa.
    Their’s are stealing, lying and killing. They aren’t your friends, even to the president or any officials.

  18. Mhesha says:

    Four months ago It was reported by these same CSOs that Paladin had started discharged the effluent into the rivers despite the company’s rejection. Now here’s the truth of real discharge not bodza la dzana lija…CSOs mxxxxxxiiiest!
    Even if u protest against the discharge of the effluent where should it go? Paladin and government experts have neutralised the waste WATER and is safe for release. That’s how it is done else where. Avoid exaggeration. I know u wanted some bunz from walker…but sorry he is so stingy. ..

  19. King says:

    I don’t believe this guy, Greg Walker.These azungu are very rich,cunning and powerful. A water resources department apatsidwa masikono apa. The water they are discharging can never be safe. How can the whole government allow this immoral act?

  20. Vinjeru says:

    WE NEED TO GET A COURT INJUNCTION TO STOP THIS EXCERCISE!!! WHO CAN HELP US PLEASE!!!!!!

  21. Vinjeru says:

    I appreciate the effort taken to clean up the water and release it into the local system. However i have one worry!! How clean is this water? How competent is this government department capable of certifying that the water is indeed clean? The fact that the guys carrying out the test got their expertise in London does not matter but how accurate are they in the results of their tests – have they used the correct technology? Have they shared their notes with the advanced standards? have the sent their samples to the advanced labs to confirm their “ok” results? We should bear in mind that spoiling the lake in Karonga implies the whole Malawi natural water system is doom all the way to Shire – i will not talk about Mozambique – imagine the all the fish that we depend on and the “freshness of our lake” – all gone. Just because of mediocrity! or just letting the Australians having their way!!!! – Soon these guys will be gone. These guys’ children will not suffer but ours will be the ones suffering. After all there has already been history of radioactive material affecting the employees. To what extent can we trust this? Malawians, lest wake up. Lets be careful and make sure we are really double sure that this water is safe. In SA they are butchering us! Our government has cash gated us!! We were equally usurped on this same Kayerekera mine. For how long shall we let the status quo to continue??? Lets do something for once the future generations will respect us for. Some countries in the world have done and we should be able to do it as well – with all this education and educated fellows – this exercise can be done right NOT wrong!!!!

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