Ethiopia: Government Suspends Gold Mine License following Pollution Claims
The protesters claimed that the discharge from the company has caused skin irritation, complications in women's delivery, child illness and death.
The government of Ethiopia through the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoMPNG) earlier this month suspended Midroc Gold Mineâ€™s license following claims that the company has been disposing chemicals within the surrounding area and causing environmental pollution.
The action by the government follows weeks of angry protests by residents of the Guji zone in the Oromia Regional State which reached a climax towards the end of April. The protesters claimed that the discharge from the company has been polluting the environment and the Lega Dembi River and allege that the pollution has caused skin irritation, complications in women's delivery, child illness and death.
The site which is the largest gold producer in the country is located 500 km south-west of Addis Ababa in Guji Zone in the Oromia Regional State.
Midroc Gold is a leading exporter of gold having generated 231 million dollars from gold exports in 2017. In the first three quarters of last fiscal year, Midroc Gold alone extracted 3,800 kg of gold. The company was established in the late 1990's by an Ethio-Saudi Arabian tycoon, Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi, his wife Sofia Salah Al-Amoudi and the government of Ethiopia.
The company uses Sodium Cyanide in its gold extraction process. The chemical is registered as a hazardous substance in the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which adopts and enforces health and safety standards.
Midroc Gold strongly denies the claims of pollution by the residents. In a special publication released earlier this month, the company stated that discharge from the site is stored in a tailing dam while any discharge passes through a detoxification plant. The waste is only discharged when the company confirms its compliance with internationally accepted water quality.
According to the Ministry, different environmental assessments were conducted by the ministry, environmental auditors, the company itself and experts from Addis Ababa University (AAU). All of the assessments concluded that the chemical discharge from the company conforms to international standards.
"The license remains suspended until completion of the assessment which will be conducted by an independent body," said Bacha Faji, Public Relations & Communications Director of the Ministry. "The assessment will be conducted on samples of soil and water from the area."