A coalition of Malawian NGOs accused Paladin Energy of discharging sludge from its tailing dams from its Kayelekera Uranium Mine into the Sere and North Rukuru rivers and the Lake Malawi. They claim that the sludge is contaminated with waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals that are used in processing the uranium ore, and that fish have already been effected since late November. The Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources announced investigations into the extent of fish kills and its causes in January.
Paladin maintained that they planned to discharge water in early 2015 and that they had made arrangements to treat the wastewater according to international standards. The process had been agreed to by relevant government authorities.
See also: “Uranium Mine Sludge Discharge Permit Threatens Lake Malawi”, Environment News Service, November 25, 2014
February 2014: Production at the Kayelekera Mine was suspended in February 2014 due to low uranium prices. The mine was put on care and maintenance until the costs of operations would be profitable again. Most of the workers will be dismissed in the closure. The Malawian NGO Citizens for Justice however claimed that Paladin not only put the mine on clearance and maintenance but was in the process of closing the mine. This was against Malawian laws. Citizens for Justice continued saying the closure of the mine was not due to low uranium prices but to operational problems and high production costs.
Suspension of the operations in Malawi do not affect the Namibian Langer Heinrich mine.
The Kayelekera Uranium Mine in northern Malawi is operated by Paladin (Africa) Ltd. (PAL), a subsidiary of Paladin Energy, Australia. In July 2009, Paladin issued 15% of equity in PAL to the Government of Malawi under the terms of the Development Agreement signed between PAL and the Government in February 2007.
The licence for the open-pit Kayelekera Uranium Mine covers 5,550 hectares and was granted in April 2007 for a period of 15 years. After the Environmental Impact Assessment in 2007, the construction of the mining facilities was completed in 2009.
Operations at the mine use the “Resin in Pulp” technologies, which is new in uranium mining. The mine produced 2.169Mlbs in 2011, which was an increase of 125% from the 963,000lbs produced in 2010. The uranium oxide is transported via Zambia to Namibia, and shipped to converters in North America.
(See the Paladin Energy Ltd. Annual Report 2011)
The Kayelekera Uranium Mine is under observation of the Karonga Natural Resources Justice Committee (KANRJC). They are concerned for the compliance with environmental and safety standards at the mine, as well as the relocation of farmers without adequate compensation.
Furthermore, they question the compliance of Paladin with the terms of agreements with the government of Malawi that reduced the corporate and rent taxes for Paladin in exchange for the 15% stake in the project.
KANRJC claim for access to information to enable them to monitor the mining activities, their impact and the compliance with environmental, labour rights and safety standards.
In detail, KANRJC want to learn about
– how the government runs environmental and safety inspections of the mines;
– the terms of agreement with the government;
– the money Paladin pays for relocation and compensation of farmers;
– the land that is allocated for mining operations; and
– the impacts of the mining operations on health and living conditions.
In January 2013, the Malawian Minister of Mines John Bande chose sides for Paladin Africa and said the company should be protected from further attacks from critics. He added Paladin did not deserve the allegations.
Meanwhile, the CEO of the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) Collins Magalasi said the government of Malawi had made a bad choice of project given the absence of transparency and accountability in the deal. He also adviced to renegotiate the deal.
Study by SOMO and WISE on Uranium from Africa 2011