Following heavy downpour currently being experienced in the northern part of the country, communities surrounding the Kayerekera Uranium Mine in Karonga have expressed fear over the continued discharge of water from the site which runs down to rivers.
Chairperson for Mbande Area Development Committee (ADC) Smith Kalambo told The Daily Times on Monday that the persistent rainfall has worsened the runoff from the mine, thus releasing water from tailings dams into the environment.
“We have always had issues with the water that people around the mine drink, it is highly contaminated and one tourist who came a year ago confirmed to the people that it contains traces of uranium which is a health hazard,” said Kalambo.
“This rain now has just worsened the situation because the water flowing into Rukuru is coming directly from the mine’s tailings and it’s not good for human consumption and we are worried,” he added.
But in a statement seen by this reporter on Tuesday, Paladin Energy Limited dispelled reports of the discharge and accused the media of spreading false rumours.
Interestingly, in the statement Chief Executive Officer, Alexander Molyneux, conceded that the torrential rains have led to the increased levels of inventory water in the Kayerekera tailings storage facility but insisted that the levels are within the recommended capacity.
According to Molyneux, the overflow and environmental release of clean water from a rainfall runoff water catchment pond at the mine is in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan.
“However the freeboard levels remain within the approved operating design criteria and this facility continues to be actively monitored and managed,” reads the statement.
But Project Manager for Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian, Paul Mvula, blamed the development on the prevailing information gap between mining investors and communities around the mines.
Mvula wondered why environmental and health officers who go out every month to test water samples at Kayerekera never report back to the people on what elements are contained in the water as one way of arraying their fears.
“We implore mine officials to continue updating the people on the status of the tailings dams before they start speculating, government should also provide space to engage with the company so that all unanswered questions are addressed,” Mvula said.
For two years now, Kayerekera Uranium Mine has been inactive after its proprietors Paladin Energy placed it on a recess dubbed Care and Maintenance.
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