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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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.

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… Read more »

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

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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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.

chinkombaleza gumanyundo gowa
chinkombaleza gumanyundo gowa
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… Read more »
Eliam k

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


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


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.

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