A coalition of Malawi Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) has faulted Paladin Energy Limited’s intention to discharge its waste material into the local river system in Karonga.
But dual-listed Paladin managing director John Borshoff said on Monday no water has been treated and released todate, stressing that among others, the company will ensure that the released water meets World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water guidelines for uranium content.
The network has since asked government not to issue a permit, allowing the uranium miner to offload the waste, which includes waste uranium rock, acids and arsenic, among others.
NRJN board chairperson Kossam Munthali was reacting to a statement by Paladin issued on Mondayrefuting that the Australian mining firm had begun to discharge waste material from Kayelekera tailing dam.
In the same statement, Paladin insisted that it plans to commence the controlled release of surplus water into the local river system in early 2015, during the monsoonal wet season.
But Munthali countered, saying that Paladin dealings have for a long time left Malawians with more questions than answers.
“What we know is that Paladin has one tailing pond, but it was supposed to have two ponds from the onset to contain the waste. So, discharging the waste is not a practice. Environmental-related matters must give due respect to the constitution and international best practices,” he said.
Citing the ‘Sumuka Inn Declaration,’ Munthali said CSOs under the network strongly urge government not to give the permit to Paladin to discharge the waste.
He claimed that Paladin continues to operate secretively, by among others, dictating the kind of people to enter the mining premises at Kayelekera while denying other people such as CSO players.
“We demand that the Karonga District Council Health and Environmental Services Committee and us CSO players should go and verify independently the waste management system and other related issues. Kayelekera is not a no-go zone,” he said.
He also asked Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Atupele Muluzi to immediately state government position on the matter and desist from issuing Paladin a permit to discharge waste.
He added: “The sins of Paladin should not be transferred to Malawians living in Karonga. This is about the future generation of Malawians.”
Muluzi could not be reached yesterday to provide government position on the matter.
Borshoff, however, said the company has modified a section of the treatment plant at Kayelekera to allow treatment to meet Malawi and internationally recognised discharge standards.
Meanwhile, Paladin has told its shareholders that it would pursue legal steps against the relevant CSOs if the “misleading statements” around the company’s water treatment plans continued.