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EDITORIAL: Call for Bunge to probe North Mara gold mine deaths timely

by EDITORThis Day Tanzania
July 4th, 2009

SULPHURIC acid is an extremely potent liquid. Used carelessly in its concentrated form it kills any living thing, dissolves stones and similar things. The acid is used by mines, such as the North Mara Gold Mine in Tarime District, Mara Region in the process of purifying gold.

Recent press reports have linked deaths of people, livestock and fish around the mine site to sulphuric acid that is said to have been leaked into river Tigithe that flows into Mara River which eventually flows into the largest lake in East Africa -- Lake Victoria.

Such deaths have caused grave concern among members of parliament who have asked Parliament, now sitting in Dodoma, to form a team that will probe the reported deaths and assess the prevailing situation.

Without doubt, we agree with the recommendation made by the MPs who are concerned about the deaths in Tarime linked to an alleged seepage of sulphuric acid into a river whose water people use for drinking, washing and livestock watering. At the same time, the seepage of sulphuric acid in the Tigithe River also destroys the habitat of fish.

Believing that the seepage of sulphuric acid is extremely serious, MPs have also demanded that the North Mara Gold Mine suspends operations pending a thorough scientific investigation that will determine the cause of deaths around the mine site.

It has been reported earlier by Government leaders in Tarime that the water being discharged from the mining site was safe. But such reports are now proving to be false for the deaths of people and livestock have continued to take place.

We whole heartedly support a recent joint statement made by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (FemAct), the Lawyers’ Environment Action Team (LEAT) and the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) that has asked the Government to close the North Mara Gold Mine operations immediately until an independent and thorough investigation has been carried out to establish the cause of deaths of villagers living close to the mine.

We are waiting anxiously to see what measures the Government will take to save the lives of Tanzanians and their livestock living in the vicinity of the North Mara Gold Mine.

Letting the gold mine continue operating is, without doubt, a serious violation of human rights and a breach of the Environment Act unless the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) comes up with a different in-depth scientific report saying that the water being discharged from the gold mine into the Tigithe River has no adverse effects.

And we are waiting to see what the august House will do to heed the call made by our MPs concerning the deaths of villagers and cattle, that it forms a parliamentary probe team into the deaths. The sooner this is done the better for all.

The deaths of Tanzanians, caused by any reason whatsoever, even in the quest of gold and the goodwill of foreign investors, is never a minor issue because any Tanzanian killed is just one too many.


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