The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum on Wednesday announced that it will release the inquiry report on the alleged environmental pollution caused by the MIDROC Gold Mine in the Lega Dembi locality, Oromia Regional State.
Briefing reporters about the Ministry’s one year performance Minister Samuel Hurkato stated that the technical study that has been undertaken on the Lega Dembi Gold Mine will be released. “Local communities have been voicing their grievances on the impacts of the gold mine on the environment. Experts have been undertaking an environment impact assessment. We will release the report next week,” Samuel said.
The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum suspended the mining license of MIDROC Gold, the first large-scale mining company in Ethiopia, in the wake of a series of public riots in connection with environmental pollution in May 2018. Local residents have been complaining about alleged environmental pollution that was being caused by the chemical the company uses to process the gold ore. The residents claim that the chemical waste that was coming out of the gold mine was causing health hazards.
The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum had hired Addis Ababa University to conduct a study on the gold mine operation. However, the findings of the study was not revealed to the public.
After a consultative meeting with MIDROC Gold, representatives of the local community and other stakeholders the ministry decided to conduct another environmental impact assessment on the gold mine. The parties agreed that an independent body should undertake the study.
The Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa through its support program to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum funded the study. Accordingly, Canadian experts conducted the study. Based on the findings of the study the Ministry would decide to renew or revoke the mining license of MIDROC Gold.
MIDROC Gold, one of the subsidiary companies administered under MIDROC Technology Group, acquired the Lega Dembi Gold Mine from the government through privatization for 172 million dollars in 1997. Since 1998 the company has been mining gold and silver from the mine, located in the Oromia Regional State, Guji Zone, Lega Dembi locality 500 km South of Addis Ababa.
The Lega Dembi Gold Mine has an installed annual production capacity of four tons of gold. It was an open pit mine but MIDROC Gold has built the first underground mine in the country and conducted various exploration activities to extend the economic life of the mine.
MIDROC’s mining license, which was valid for twenty years, was due to expire in 2016. But six month prior to the deadline MIDROC submitted its application to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to extend the mining license for ten years.
After evaluating the application, Ministry renewed the mining license for ten years. That was what prompted local residents of Shakisso town to stage public riots last year. To address the public outrage the Ministry suspended the mining license of MIDROC Gold as of May 9 until a thorough study is done by an independent organ.
MIDROC Gold had urged the Ministry to expedite the investigation process.
Speaking about conflicts with local communities Samuel said mining firms in the past did little to interact with the local communities and regional governments. “It is only when they face security problems that they contact the regional bureaus,” he said. However, Samuel said that currently the Ministry is trying to forge partnership between regional states and mining firms. “On the other hand there are some mining companies who did commendable job in terms of community development that we should promote,” he added.