In May 2009, toxic waste from a gold mine located in NorthMara, Tanzania, spilled into River Tigithe. Reports from thesurrounding villages alleged that people and livestock diedfrom the contaminated water. But the company that operatesthe mine,
African Barrick Gold, denied that the spillage ledto the deaths of villagers.
Barrick’s spokesperson said recently that there are nomore problems with the river
yet villagers living in Tarimedistrict claim they are still experiencing health-related illnessesfrom the water. There are also reports that a number of peoplehave been killed by security forces belonging to the company.
Though the mine is described by Barrick as operating atzero discharge, meaning no water is released back into thesurrounding environment, villagers have long complained thatthe mine has negative effects.Relations between the company and people in surroundingvillages are not the best, stemming both from dissatisfactionwith the levels of compensation paid to those displaced by themine when it was established in 2003 and from the belief thatthe mine has negatively impacted the environment.According to independent journalist, Jessie Boylan whovisited the North Mara community December 2009 in largesections, the grass had completely died, and plants andsome vegetation had off-coloured stalks. The stream runningfrom the mine site had green growth covering it; there wasno sign of insects, tadpoles or frogs, and some crystallisedplants stuck out of the water, as if frozen or covered by salt;according to her accont no other streams in the area lookedlike this.
Local community believe the contamination has caused fsh,
crops and animals in the surrounding area to perish. Manylocals have also complained of health problems such asskin irritations and stomach pains as a result of drinking andbathing in the water.There have been two reports
confrming lasting negative
effects of a toxic spill in Tanzania that occurred last May. Thelatest report,
commissioned by an interfaith committee inTanzania and written by scientists from Norwegian Universityif Life Sciences and the University of Dar es Salam, foundpotential life threatening levels of arsenic around Barrick’sNorth Mara mine. The study investigated the area around thetailing dam and the site of an accidental spill that occurred onMay 9, 2009. Despite that fact that these areas were testedfour to seven months after the spill, this study shows that thewater remains toxic for human consumption and grazing use.According to Evans Rubara,a policy and advocacy advisor working on natural resource management in Tanzania andZambia for the Christian Council of Tanzania, following the
testimony chacha ochibhota
Chacha Ochibhota, is a young manwho has discoloured skin pigmentationcovering his face and blood shot eyes.His medical record states that on July,he claimed to
“have used acidic water,contaminated by the mining project –sustaining burns on the face…”
andhe was referred to the Tarime DistrictHospital for further investigations.
“I started feeling the problems in May thisyear,” he said. “I have a farm near theTigithe River. When it was hot and sweaty I would bath in the water and wash my face and body to cool down.“It felt different, when I tasted the water,it didn’t taste normal, it was a salty taste,and it was the feeling of rubbing salt inwounds…“I was referred to the district hospital, but because I had no money, I didn’t go.“For me,” says Ochibhota, “I need only treatment, so I can do work. Now I canonly lie in bed, or do soft work…”
LOCAL MAN FROM NORTH MARA, CHACHA OCHIBHOTA WOTH SKIN PIGMEN-TATION FROM BATHING IN CONTAMINATED WATER. PHOTO: JESSIE BOYLAN