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Bunge braces for North Mara acid spillage report

by ORTON KIISHWEKODaily News (Tanzania)
November 2nd, 2009

MORE details on the findings of a study on possible water contamination due to acid seepage from the North Mara Gold Mine will be known when the final report on the matter is presented in Parliament in Dodoma next week.

The Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Minerals, Mr William Shellukindo, was commenting on a research report by an inter-faith committee that focused on the levels of trace metal concentrations in soils and water samples drawn from rivers, ponds and from cultivated lands near the mines in Nyakabale and North Mara.

Done under the precipices of the Norwegian University of Health Sciences, the study has revealed that the concentrations of some of the elements in water at the mentioned sites were above the World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water recommendations while other samplings showed traceable metal concentrations below the government’s standards.

“The soil analysis shows that apart from the incident site in Tarime, not very high contents of trace elements,wheras the waters and sediment samples contained higher contents of the investigated elements,’’ the findings note.

Results indicated that in some places levels of trace metals were higher than what is permitted by the government and WHO standards.

“We will express the feelings of these communities when we speak in parliament,” Mr Shellukindo said.

But members of the committee, who have seen the chief government chemist’s report, confirmed that it had similar findings as the report released yesterday.

The issue of water contamination by effluents from the North Mara Gold Mine stirred debate in the 16th parliamentary session where the government immediately heeded to the House’s resolution in the light of a select committee comprising MPs to investigate claims of toxic seepage.

According to members of the inter-faith committee, the study, done in seven villages, witnessed a shift in the search for water resources in the area and deaths of 17 heifer cattle and six abortions between May and August.

They, therefore, recommended an environment audit, medical examination of those affected and for the government to give a position as to whether the water was safe or not.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Job Ndugai, said that the two mines, North Mara and Geita, were by initial design close to the communities.

Though some religious leaders suggested that the North Mara Mine be closed, the committee advised that that should be left to the discretion of agreement of parliament and central government.

According to the Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Minerals, Mr Daniel Nsanzugwanko, the committee’s directive that an alternative source of water be found had to be effected with ‘a sense of urgency.’ Kibiti MP Abdul Marombwa asked the Mara area to have faith in the government as the issue would be openly tabled on Wednesday next week.

But Barrick CEO Deo Mwanyika told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ yesterday that acts of sabotage by some local criminals could harm lives of people.

He said a $0.5m fence put around the area two weeks ago had been brought down again by some individuals. In May, some people, he said had broken into the mine and cut the liners where the chemicals were protected, leaving the Toxic Sludge into River Tigithe in oblivion of the mine management.

River Tigithe, which is used by thousands of residents, especially the rural population, flows into Mara River that discharges water into Lake Victoria on the Tanzania side.


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