MAC: Mines and Communities

Malawi: NGOs want to stop uranium mining

Published by MAC on 2007-04-05

Malawi: NGOs want to stop uranium mining

by Rabecca Theu, The Nation

5th April 2007

Some civil society organisations are planning to get a court injunction to stop Paladin Africa from mining uranium at Kayelekera in Karonga unless the project comes out clear on its negative impact on people.

But Chief Karonga of Karonga has described the move as unfortunate. He says the NGOs just want to get famous using the mining issue.

One of the organisations, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), on Wednesday said the NGOs have grouped to stop the implementation of the project because its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not done procedurally.

"There are shortfalls highlighted in the environmental assessment report to which government has not responded, for instance, issues of protecting citizen's rights and health.

"The citizens have complained but government is negligent that's why we want to try the courts so that they help us resolve this," said John Chawinga, CCJP's secretary for the Mzuzu Diocese. He said a lawyer for the NGOs has already made submissions in court and is waiting for the injunction to be granted.

The other organisations are the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Focus on Karonga, Citizens for Justice and the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI).

IPI executive director Rafik Hajat yesterday confirmed the organisation's support for the plan to obtain the court injunction.

But Chief Karonga argued that he saw no reason why the NGOs should stop the implementation of the project.

"What is it that they want and which laws are they using? Some of these organisations are just out there to disturb," said Karonga.

On its part, government said all required procedures were followed before the mining company was granted a licence last week.

"There is no need to panic because we have followed the law," said Minister of Energy and Mining Chimunthu Banda.

He said the country's Environmental Management Act of 1996 stipulates that a developer will carry out an EIA and submit its report to government as well as display it for public scrutiny.

"Thereafter, the people have to submit their comments to the Director of Environmental Affairs who compiles the same and discusses with the developer.

"All this was done and we solicited experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to which Malawi is a member, who recommended that teams of experts should conduct baseline surveys before Paladin goes full throttle into its operations," said Chimunthu Banda. He also said the National Council for Environment looked at the submissions and approved the EIA report.

Chimunthu Banda said he could not competently comment on the injunction as he is not a legal expert.


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