The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Malawi has condemned the country’s government for granting a mining license to the Paladin Resources Company of Australia to start mining uranium.
The commission of the Roman Catholic Church in the Mzuzu Diocese noted in a 2 March statement that the government granted mining permission despite calls from church and civil society organizations not to let mining go ahead. Mining opponents argued that an environmental impact assessment report issued by Paladin was unscientific and did not address health issues including how the company would protect people working on the mine and those living in surrounding areas from radiology.
"Those charged with protecting Malawi citizens, do not want to listen to cries from the people," read a statement issued by Catholic commission. "The Malawi government is being unfair to its citizens. The development letter does not mention health and the protection of citizens. The letter only outlines the financial benefits to Paladin and government."
Malawi’s President, Bingu wa Mutharika, and his cabinet on 22 February gave the go ahead to Paladin to go ahead with its 20 billion Malawi kwacha (US$144 million) uranium project in the country’s northern district of Karonga which borders Tanzania.
According to the agreement, 15 percent of equity in the project will be transferred to the Malawi government in return for reduced corporate tax from 30 percent to 27.5 percent.
The Australian company has undertaken to provide social infrastructure in the Kayelekera region, including modern primary and boarding secondary schools and health facilities for the local population, most probably funded in the third year of the project life.
The Catholic commission said: "We should know that we do not own creation but we are stewards according to the will of God. God expects us to use this creation in a sustainable way so that future generations should be able to meet their needs also."
In January some civil society organizations hired an Australian scientist Gavin Mudd to scrutinise Paladin’s environmental impact assessment report. Mudd said the report failed to include studies of sufficient scientific quality and length for assessing the environmental impacts from the proposed project.
"At present, Paladin proposes to leave the tailings [waste] above ground. In Australia, it is scientifically accepted that the best long term outcome for uranium tailings is to deposit them back into a former open cut or even underground mine, thereby ensuring better long term environmental and radiology security," said Mudd during consultations with civil society groups and journalists.
He also rejected Paladin’s proposal on water management that it would allow direct release of contaminated mine site water under heavy rainfall conditions.
(c) Ecumenical News International
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