Following the controversy over alleged environment pollution near the Legadembi gold mine, MIDROC Gold requested the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas to expedite the study on the matter.
In a letter sent to the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas (MMPNG), MIDROC Gold requested for a speedy investigation into the alleged pollution occurred near the gold mine. The company requested the Ministry to undertake the study not only in the gold mine but also in the environs outside of the gold mine.
A senior official at the MMPNG told The Reporter that the Ministry is under preparation to hire an independent consultant that would undertake a study that would enable the Ministry to identify if the reported pollution has really occurred and how it happened.
The local community residing near the Legadambi mine complained that chemical waste released by the MIDROC Gold Mine has caused serious health hazards on women and children. The community members claim that birth defects and miscarriages occurred in the community as a result of a poisonous chemical called cyanide that the company uses to process the gold ore.
MIDROC Gold admits that it uses cyanide chemical; however, it argued that reputable international mining firms use cyanide to treat gold ore adding that it does not cause the reported health hazards on women and children.
Sources told The Reporter that artisanal miners that traditionally pan gold near the Legadembi gold mine use mercury chemical and the company wants the Ministry to include the artisanal mining activities in the study. "MIDROC stopped using mercury a long time ago," the source said.
The Ministry, in collaboration with MIDROC Gold, hired Addis Ababa University to conduct a study on the use of chemicals by MIDROC Gold. The Ministry did not disclose the findings of the study. However, the ministry recently renewed the mining license of MIDROC Gold and that triggered public anger.
Following the public protest staged by residents of Shakisso town two weeks ago, the Ministry suspended the mining license. The Ministry disclosed that it ordered the company to stop production of gold until a study is undertaken by an independent body.
In a letter sent to The Reporter, MIDROC Gold stated that it accepted the decision of the Ministry and stopped operation. "The company has calmed down its employees and it is working with the local administration and law enforcement forces to prevent property damages," the company said.
MIDROC Gold said that as the company brings in the much needed foreign currency to the country each day is counting the cost. "Considering this fact we urge the Ministry to expedite the investigation process," the company said.
In 1997 MIDROC Gold acquired the Legadembi open pit gold mine for 172 million USD through privatization process. Since 1998 MIDROC has been mining gold and silver from the gold mine and export the bulk of its product to Switzerland. The company built the first underground mining in Ethiopia and undertook a vast exploration work in Sakaro and Metekel license area and discovered commercial primary gold deposits.