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Minister Muluzi reads riot act to Greg Walker of Paladin Malawi: Ordered to produce report within 10 days

Walker and MuluziHeavy rains and storms which devastated a run-off tank at Kayerekera Uranium Mine has exposed Paladin in Malawi to numerous questions, especially how it is ensuring that waste water in its retaining dams does not spill over into rivers and Lake Malawi.

 

Minister of Mining Atupele Muluzi accompanied by government officials and chiefs toured the mine on Thursday to ascertain Paladin Malawi’s claims that they have yet to treat and offload waste water from the uranium mine—but also to assess the gravity of the spillage which allegedly suffered a minor damage on Monday.

Outspoken and ever defensive Paladin Malawi general manager Greg Walker said the company has done necessary tests and put in place measures to contain the leakage.

Paladin reported the damage to government on Tuesday and made a public announcement on Wednesday, said Walker.

Greg Walker is known to call or write Media editors who publish unflattering articles about Paladins activities at Kayerekera Mine in-order to intimidate them.

But when Muluzi descended the hills of Kayerekera in Karonga North West, there was a barrage of questions, especially on the state of waste water accumulating at the mine.

Is all well at Kayerekera? Paramount Chief Kyungu read the riot act. If all is well, why is Paladin barring chiefs, the civil society and journalists from entering Kayerekera?

Such was the mood that the minister was compelled to confirm what people have been saying all along.

Is all well? No! obviously. If all was well, we would not be here. Government’s job is to address the situation and to protect the interests of Malawians.

Investigations must continue. There were mistakes that were made and we must learn from them to avoid a repeat of what has happened. We must get to the bottom of this, Minister Muluzi said.

He said the situation would have ballooned into a big catastrophe if government did not look into it seriously.

The minister gave Paladin a 10-day ultimatum to submit a comprehensive report detailing how the tank containing lime and sand sediments burst to its seams due to the storm. He reckoned the report will be made public as soon as it reaches Capitol Hill.

In a twist to the tale of the country’s mining sector, Muluzi admitted that a veil of secrecy surrounding mining issues and lack of information cause confusion.

Government is committed towards eliminating the veil of secrecy which overshadows the mining sector and we are striving for greater transparency in the sector even before we sign up to the Extractive Industry Transparency International next month, said the minister, promising greater contact with people and dissemination of mining agreements and related documents.

The announcement of the breakage at Kayerekere persuaded Senior Chief Karonga and NRJN to make the fact-finding trip once more, but they were sent back by armed police officers at the gates.

This is the position of NRJN, with its president Kossam Munthali telling the minister:The people of Karonga and all Malawians want government to open its eyes and see the long-term effects of mining, not to waste taxpayers’ money shouldering Paladin’s sins.

Minister Muluzi said the mining company will pay a full price if its actions are found to have contravened the Protection of Environment Act.

He said his conscience was clear to declare that in his layperson’s view, there was nothing to suggest or cause disaster at Kayerekera so far.

Echoing this view, director of environmental affairs Aloysius Kamperewera said the tank might have burst because water had been accumulating since the mine was suspended and put in care-and-maintenance mode in February last year.

It is nothing to cause alarm. When mining is in progress, water does not accumulate or need any treatment. Instead, it is recycled and reused in the process, said Kamperewera.

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