Five held for ‘bomb’ threats at Paladin’s Malawi uranium mine

Malawi Police in the northern border district of Karonga are keeping in custody five Kayelekera Uranium Mine workers on allegations they threatened management to blow up the mine.

The five, arrested last Friday, are also suspected of being linked to the theft of explosives worth US$5780.76 (about K2, 150, 600) belonging to China Road and Bridge Construction Company in Chitipa.

There was no immediate comment from Karonga Police as officers said they are “still investigating”. But Nyasa Times sources said the five were arrested on orders from Paladin Energy Limited (owners of Kayelekera).

The five, who are production plant operators, are reported to have threatened Kayelekera management that they would blow up the process plant if their salaries were not increased and foreign workers laid off.

Walker, Paladin's boss: No immediate comment
Walker, Paladin’s boss: No immediate comment

According to our sources, the five have been identified as Sangwani Mtonga, Golden Chilenga and Matthews Mkandawire. Identities of the other two were not yet independently verified.

The five workers are reported to have issued threats of bombing the mine through anonymous emails to Kayelekera General Manager, John Chandler.

Their threats coincided with the theft of explosives at a storage facility of the Chinese company, contractors of Karonga-Chitipa Road.

“Paladin officials and the police are connecting the five to the theft of the explosives and they believe their [suspects] threats to blow up the uranium process plant were real,” said the source.

After the threats, Paladin officials are reported to have requested the deployment of the law enforcers to the mine for safety measures.

“The police responded immediately by coming in large numbers on 8th June 2013 and subsequently arrested the five on 14th June. The five are still in custody,” he said.

Despite keeping the workers in custody, police are yet to produce evidence of that the five were indeed the ones who sent the malicious emails and are linked to the theft of the explosives which are yet to be found.

Among the stolen explosives were six rolls of solar cord and 157 pieces of super power.

However, the development has stunned most workers who think management’s move is aimed at eliminating workers deemed to be fighting for the employees’ welfare.

Management already eliminated other employees through “unfair dismissals and retrenchment” of 25th January 2013.

Lately, the company has embarked on employing new members of staff whom it wants to be loyal and is trying to get rid of those that started working before or soon after mining and concentration of uranium oxide started in April 2009.

Some police officers are also wondering why Paladin has taken such move because they may end up paying up them millions through unlawful arrest and unfair dismissal.

Paladin manager for international affairs Greg Walker said he could issue a statement on the develeopment, saying the Police would be better placed to comment.

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