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Families want payout from gold firm

by Patty Magubira, Mwanza The Citizen
May 20th, 2009

The North Mara Gold Mine (NMGM) has been given ten days in which to compensate members of 30 households claiming to have been affected by its poisonous heavy metals.

The notice has been issued by residents of Kemambo and Nyamongo ward in Tarime district, Mara region.

They have also urged the mine management to install reliable ponds to contain chemical contaminated water from the mine's processing plant.

This follows reports that one person and five cows in the two wards died of chemical poison after coming into contact with Tigithi River water.

The water is said to be contaminated by heavy metals from the NMGM sewerage treatment pond.

The residents claimed that fish in the river was also found to have been killed as a result of the river�s water being contaminated by the heavy metals.

The river pours its water into Mara River which, in turn, pours its water into Lake Victoria.

The firm's Public Relations and Communications manager, Mr Teweli Teweli, however, maintained that the Tigithi River water was not poisonous.

Speaking over the phone and in a statement yesterday he admitted, however, that the pH (level of acidity) of the water had risen.

"Investigations and water sampling show that the current pH levels in the Tigithi River have returned to normal," Mr Teweli said.

He explained that the mine's environmental and water specialists investigated the matter and found out that the pH levels approximately 1000 meters downstream dropped to 4.8.

He said the mine had taken immediate steps to address the run-off and water discharge from its water storage pond and ore stockpile.

Councillors for the Kemambo and Nyamongo wards, Mr Augustino Neto Sasi and Machage Baltholomeo Machage, respectively, said residents of their wards were worried about their health as a result of the �contamination� of water from the Tigithi River.

The Member of Parliament for Tarime, Mr Charles Mwera, said he was informed of the incident.

He said the parliamentary Committee on Energy and Minerals was scheduled to visit one of the country's four large-scale mines belonging to Barrick Gold Tanzania.

Mr Mwera told members of the Nile Media Network (NMN) last weekend that he had endorsed the demonstration by residents of the two wards.

They want to press the mine management to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

"Work to intercept and divert water coming into contact with the river is scheduled for completion next week. Several options are under consideration to address the problem in the long-term," Mr Teweli said.

He said the Tarime District Commissioner; Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Lake Victoria Basin Authority and the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) were aware of the development.

Communities had held meetings to inform their colleagues about the matter and enlist their support in the search for a long lasting solution, he said.

"The situation results from increased rainfall and vandalism to pond liners," said Mr Teweli. He revealed that the liner material was regularly damaged and stolen.

Besides NMGM, Barrick Gold Corporation, which is the world's prominent gold mining company whose shares are listed on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, also has a stake in Bulyanhulu or Buly, as it is widely known, Tulawaka and Buzwagi gold mines.


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