Wednesday, September 23, 2009
On the Pursuit for Justice for All
Religious Leaders in Katoma Village in Geita District - Mwanza
When the strategies to follow up what exactly happened at Bulyanhulu where Barrick Gold Corporation operates, what is happening in North Mara, Buzwagi and Geita Where AngloGold Ashanti operates there were a number of challenges and many more to come. But we believe in solidarity. I am really proud that the banner for Truth and Justice for All is flying High. How we long to see a Tanzania and parts of the world rich in Natural resources turn into havens of peace and plenty for their people. Read this Press from South Africa!
The multinational corporations are at it again! This time not just for gross and scandalous human rights abuses but also causing death of people especially women and children in the North Mara and Geita regions of Tanzania.
This was revealed by two recent studies, “A Golden Opportunity? How Tanzania is failing to benefit from gold mining” and “Levels of Heavy Metals and Cyanide in Soil, Sediment and Water from the Vicinity of North Mara Gold Mine in Tarime District, Tanzania”. The studies were commissioned by three faith-based organizations; Christian council of Tanzania (CCT), the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA) and Tanzania Episcopal Conference(TEC).
A high level delegation of interfaith leaders led by His Grace Archbishop Paul Ruzoka, visiting South Africa on a learning mission presented the report to His Grace Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, President and Founder of African Monitor in Cape Town on Monday.
The report reveals that Tanzania has lost at least $265.5million in recent years as a result of an excessively low royalty rate, government tax concessions that allow companies to avoid paying corporation tax and also through tax evasion by some companies. Even more seriously, unethical business practices that have been used by these multinational corporations continue to inflict Cyanide contamination of drinking water, rivers, farming and grazing land.
According to the report, the levels of Cyanide and heavy metals leaking from the nearby waste rock piles and tailing dam, are far more than the World Health Organisation (WHO), USA and Tanzanian Regulating Bodies (TZA and EPA) set targets of permissible Cyanide. The study revealed that that both heavy metals through Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and Cyanide were leaking from waste rock piles and tailing dam, respectively.
As a consequence, people living in the study area are in serious danger of suffering and dying from effects of pollution from heavy metals and Cyanide. For instance, water samples taken from River Tighite indicate that Ni, Pb, and Cr, were 260, 168 and 14 times higher respectively, this year than was observed in the year 2002. This has serious implications for humans and other living organisms in the area.
Of the six major gold mining companies operating in Tanzania, the Canadian based Barrick Gold Corporation and the South African based AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) are responsible for the displacement, spillage of Cyanide and other heavy metals in the mining regions of Geita and North Mara.
“Gold mining in Tanzania remains shrouded in secrecy. Parliament has never formally seen any of the mining contracts signed by the government with the mining companies. The recent contract for Barrick’s new Buzwagi mine has been widely viewed in Tanzania only because it was leaked to the media. The agreement signed in October 2007 by the government with AGA for its Geita mine also remains a secret”, says His Grace Bishop Dr. Valentine Mokiwa (Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Tanzania and President of the All Africa Conference of Churches).
“The communities in these areas have also been excluded in decision-making in awarding mining contracts and the use of land which they own and occupy. The failure of government to involve and protect the people from these corporations clearly demonstrates a serious lack of will and commitment to put their people first and foremost,” he adds.
Archbishop Ndungane reiterates; “We cannot allow multinational corporations to hide behind business contracts that undermine human life and dignity. All humans are created equally before God and it is the responsibility of everyone, religious leaders included, to ensure that the sanctity of life is upheld throughout the world. We don’t condemn businesses but the manner in which they conduct themselves,” he adds.
During the past few months a number of death cases reported including women and children has increased due to consumption of polluted water and other environmentally related hazards in North Mara.
“The people in these communities will continue to die as the level of acid in their bodies increases due to inhalation, drinking contaminated water and usage of soils contaminated by Cyanide and heavy metals,” Sheik Mohamed, the Deputy Secretary of BAKWATA expressed.
Following the release of this shocking and heart-rending report, the Interfaith Committee on Economic Justice and Integrity of Creation is in a process of finalizing a Commission of Enquiry comprising of Lawyers, Doctors, Environmentalists and Economists who will expedite the resolution of this matter. The report has also been presented to the Parliament of Tanzania and remains to be seen whether drastic measures will be taken to save these communities.
The delegation urges the South African and other SADC governments, businesses and other stakeholders particularly in the mining industry to abide to the principles of good business ethics. This was stressed strongly by His Grace Archbishop Ndungane, who underscored the need for the government of Tanzania to put the wellbeing of the people first and foremost.