Minister chides MPs over waste rock use claims

29May 2016
Our Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Minister chides MPs over waste rock use claims

POLITICIANS, including members of Parliament, who are agitating for mining companies to provide local citizens with waste rock materials generated by the extraction of gold, commonly known as magwangala, are doing so to gain political mileage.

Minister for Energy and Minerals Prof. Sospeter Muhongo

Minister for Energy and Minerals Prof. Sospeter Muhongo said the push was uncalled for and should not be entertained in the era of the 21st century, which was mostly dictated by science and not cheap politics.

Winding up debate on his ministry’s budget estimates for the 2016/17 financial year in Dodoma, Prof. Muhongo said it was not proper to politicize and embrace such issues, saying it was unproductive. He appealed to the politicians not to entertain the matter.

Politicians in gold mining areas have been raising the issue of waste rock materials time and again, claiming that the waste contained gold which could be extracted by the locals after filtering and earn a living.

Scientific assessment carried out on the waste rock materials shows that the waste from gold mines contains below 0.4 per cent gold per tonne. According to the survey, the amount available was too small to justify the cost of filtering.

Moreover, the issue of waste rock materials was controlled by mining laws which clearly stipulated how to handle debris caused by mining.

Mining is governed by laws of mining under the Ministry of Energy and Minerals; environmental regulations which are under the Ministry responsible for Environment; rules on safety at the workplace and the Ministry of Labour; rules on industry under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The move by some politicians trying to force surrender of waste rock materials by dumping them in areas outside the mine was not only a violation of the laws of Tanzania but also a violation of international laws and regulations on the disposal of waste emanating from mining activities.

There have been many years of tension between the owners of large gold mines in the country, including Geita Gold Mine (GGM) and Acacia at North Mara, where politicians have been imploring the local people to force the mines to supply them with waste rock materials.

Geita District Council has been in the forefront in demanding that the waste rock materials be given to all the people living in villages surrounding the mine.
Regardless of the existence of national and international laws regarding the disposal of debris caused by mining, Geita District Council directed GGM's leadership to distribute the waste in all villages.

The council on 10 June 10, 2011 appealed to the leadership of GGM to ensure that it distributed waste rock materials to villages surrounding the mine, notwithstanding that doing so would not only endanger the lives of local residents in the areas, but also break Tanzanian and international laws.

GGM rebuffed the demand, which kicked off a cloud of misunderstandings between the mine management and some politicians who have been using waste rock materials as political capital.