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Tanzania Government Probes North Mara Gold Mine Over River Pollution

by Nicholas BariyoDow Jones Newswire

The Tanzanian government is investigating the operations at North Mara Gold Mine following a chemical spill at the mine last week which polluted the nearby Tigithe river leaving thousands of residents without water for domestic use, a government official told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.

Machage Bartholomeo, a councilor in the Mara Region, said a government team is investigating the circumstances which led to the spill as well as mitigation measures put in place by Barrick Tanzania Ltd., owners of the mine.

"Investigations will establish whether the mine's waste disposal measures comply with Tanzanian laws" he said.

The team is headed by the regional minerals officer and comprises civil servants as well as councilors, he said.

The team will report to the ministry of energy and minerals by the end of the week, he added.

Chacha Benedict Wambura, the executive director of the foundation HELP told Dow Jones that the government had already started showing signs of siding with the company.

"The law is clear, the government is supposed to protect the environment and its citizens. The matter was brought to the attention of relevant government departments last week but nothing has been done," he said.

According to Wambura, the Tigithe River is a source of water for more than 2,534 households in the region.

Crops and pastures along the river banks have dried up and up to four heads of cattle died after drinking the water last week, Foundation HELP said.

Wambura said the management only took action after locals threatened to block roads towards the mine on Wednesday, a charge denied by Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), the Canadian owners of the mine.

Last week, the local unit Barrick Tanzania Ltd. said it had taken water samples from the river and the acid level was back to normal after rising following the spill on Tuesday.

The company partly blames the spill on vandalism of the mine's waste pipes, by locals.

North Mara has had stormy relations with local residents and both sides blame each other for strained relations.


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