Paladin face demos in Malawi: Demands to shut down of Kayerekera uranium mine

The business community and other concerned citizens in Malawi’s northern border district of Karonga are planning to hold demonstrations from 12 to 26th March 2012 which seeks to force the Australian mining company Paladin to close down Kayelekera Uranium Mine located in the district.

In their earlier petition to Malawi government authorities dated 26th January 2013 and copied to Paladin Africa Limited, the business community pointed out that people in Karonga consume water which comes directly from Sere River near the mine which they fear was risking their health.

They also argued that Paladin is unable to account for MK5 billion meant for social development projects in Karonga.

Spokesperson of the organizing committee, Wavisanga Silungwe confirmed this to Nyasa Times in Karonga after their meeting to plan the protests.

Greg Walker of Paladin: Under pressure from Karonga community
Greg Walker of Paladin: Under pressure from Karonga community

Silungwe observed that for many years Malawians especially local communities are being taken for granted on their resources.

He said, for example, only 20% of the local business community benefit from Kayelekera Uranium Mine while 80% of business opportunities are given to foreign business outlets.

“All what we want is to increase the level of local business opportunities at Kayelekera Uranium Mine in order to benefit more locals,” said Silungwe.

He said another problem is that people surrounding the mine drink water which may be contaminated by uranium citing that Sere River which passes close to the uranium.  He therefore expressed fear that this may negatively affect people’s health.

“With this scenario we are worried that we might be risking our lives by drinking water with uranium particles. We want to know how safe the water is for people’s health,” said Silungwe.

Silungwe, who was accompanied by organizing chairperson Clement Mwakyanjala, said communities of Karonga are not aware of the developments that the company has done other than painting a rosy picture.

The two officials explained that Karonga Business Community is jealously guarding their plan to hold the protest march to avoid a repeat of the failed November 2012 demonstrations after the mining company used divide and rule tactics to break their forces.

Influential Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga is also on record saying many people in Karonga and Chitipa districts had high expectations that Kayelekera Uranium Mine would bring tremendous change in socio-economic development of areas around the mine.

He accused Paladin of doing nothing.

“What we see is a plane from South Africa to Kayelekera three times a week but in terms of social responsibility, there is nothing and we do not know what is happening,” Kyungu said

Minister of Mining John Bande however appealed to people not to harass Paladin, saying the country needs the investors to develop and strengthen its economy.

Paladin general manager Gregory Walker said repeatedly defended his company, saying it is doing more on social responsibility.

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