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MPs raise environmental concern over Midroc Gold, et al

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday raised their concerns over major development projects and their impact on the environment. Development projects include the Midroc Gold project and soda factories in the Oromia Regional State.

Gemedo Dalle (PhD), minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, while presenting the Ministry’s eight-month performance report before the House of Peoples’ Representative (HPR), was questioned by a Member of Parliament regarding what actions the Ministry is considering to rejuvenate the land that has been overexploited in Shakisso since the era of Emperor Haile Selassie I.

“Farmers and pastoralists in the surrounding area have been complaining for a longtime. They say that the chemical, which is used to refine the gold, is polluting the area. This situation has already affected their livelihoods.”

Gemedo explained what his office was doing to enforce the law instead of giving detailed explanation to the alleged impact of gold mining in Shakisso.

“We have been contributing ideas on how the law should be respected. However, it is up to the responsible body that renews the license. It is up to them to give detailed response regarding the matter. However, our position is that there should be no development which is being carried out at the cost of the environment.”

Another MP also raised concerns over a soda factory which he said is destroying the natural resources including Lake Abiyata.

“Chemical waste from the factory – including soda ash – is affecting, gradually destroying the lake. This should not be tabled for compromise. If the decision comes once the lake is completely destroyed, it will be too little too late. It will be a historic mistake,” the MP said.

In his response, Gemedo told the House that the soda factory was first established during the Derg regime and it had no proper feasibility study before construction. Even after its establishment the problem has never been resolved due to lack of coordination among government institutions.

Gemedo, in his report, indicated that experts at the Ministry undertook a study and identified the problems. He further noted that the findings of the study have already been submitted to the government for decision. Furthermore, he indicated that this year alone measures were taken against some 1002 companies. Measures range from shutdowns to issuing warnings. However, the report did not indicate the specific details of the findings nor the possible recommended solutions.

Hence, the Ministry has been criticized for its negligence when it comes to monitoring and controlling projects that cause social crisis due to pollution, including horticulture projects.

Currently, Ethiopia has a single large-scale gold mine, the Midroc Gold Mine at Lega Dembi, Shakisso, Oromia Regional State, which is an operating open pit mine in Ethiopia.

The mine was privatized and awarded to Midroc Ethiopia in 1997. A mining license was awarded and a new company – Midroc Legadembi Gold Mine Share Company (Midroc Gold) commenced production in August 1998. It averages a yearly production totaling 4.5 tons. The Lega Dembi deposit is the largest gold producer in Ethiopia. It is situated in a late-Precambrian metamorphosed sediment of the N-S trending, volcano-sedimentary Megado belt, which forms part of the late-Proterozoic Adola granite-greenstone terrane in southern Ethiopia.

The Ministry – in collaboration with the AU – acquired USD 172 million to research/investigate and identify if the reported pollution has occurred.

Originally Midroc took over the site for 20 years and it expires this year. But its license has been renewed recently for 10 years by the Ministry of Mining, Petroleum and Natural Gas.