TANZANIA GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS PANIC OVER URANIUM MINING FEARS AND RUMOURS
Fear appears to be spreading through the establishment in Dar es Salaam over the level of opposition to Uranium mining and its potentially toxic and perhaps even fatal side effects, prompting a mini offensive through a workshop last week for media representatives, meant to ‘clear the air and make facts available to the media and the wananchi’ according to a media source who attended the seminar.
Opposition has been widespread since the moment it became known that the government was planning to degazette a 200 square kilometer area at the periphery of the Selous Game Reserve, to keep the mining area outside of regular protected areas governance, for which in fact approval had to be sought from UNESCO as the reserve is a global world heritage site and as such subject to much more stringent processes.
Once the approval was, from sources in Paris it was learned reluctantly, given the Tanzanian government moved ahead with the licensing process, but fears and worries spread through communities after details became known how such mining areas in other parts of the world ended up as toxic sites.
Environmentalists and conservationists are standing together in watching the activities of the mining company by taking water and soil samples to establish base values and then, over time, compare any contamination of streams and rivers running through the Selous but also the wells from which neighbouring communities draw water from underground sources. Soil samples too should in the future measure any toxic spread through dust blown from above ground sites where the mining aggregate will be deposited, to have independent data at hand when government publishes figures which may be doctored to fit the policies of their masters.
It was also noted with concern that no Environmental and Social Impact Study has yet been concluded and put into the public domain for perusal and debate, which lent further cause to speculations that this crucial element ahead of proper mining may be dispensed with or otherwise bypassed to facilitate fast tracking the extraction of Uranium from the mine. While according to government officials no license has yet been issued, it is all but clear that this is thought to be a mere formality, giving an insight into the thinking lines of officials. One participant also confirmed that government officials used the workshop to insist that participants toe the official line on ‘there are no known dangers’ and not give communities information which may stir up sentiments and potential unrest. An official with the Tanzanian Atomic Energy Commission in fact was quoted to have told workshop participants about some of the information circulating among communities: ‘[Some of] These claims are based on wrong perceptions’ having the media participants with their own sources of information about the dangers of Uranium mining shake their heads over the see through attempts to reshape the debate in the country in the image of government. Watch this space.