Toxic Golden Goose!

Toxic Golden Goose!

Tanzania is Africa’s 3rd largest producer of gold and important producer of diamonds, but corruption is ruining the industry and the environment. PS: they’ve found uranium.

Yesterday an “inter-faith” nongovernment group near the rich gold, nickel and now uranium mines near Lake Victoria published a report claiming that the Mara River was now toxic with mine effluents.

The group which remains nameless for obvious reasons had taken the matter into its own hands after the government refused to act on a January directive by Parliament to “clean up the mines.”

This was no high school lab experiment. The study was funded and overseen by the Norwegian University of Health Sciences, which lent its name and credibility to the conclusion that the Mara River now carries high concentrations of toxic heavy metals at levels far above World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

The group laid the blame squarely on the Canadian owned North Mara Gold Mine. The Tanzanian government has demurred, so to speak, by admitting that the security at the mine is too lax to protect items like storage tanks and other hardware regularly stolen. The implicit argument is that these items are then poorly handled, allowing for ground water contamination.

(The area of toxicity is down river from the Serengeti National Park, so presumably not a threat to the national parks.)

According to members of the inter-faith committee, the study was conducted in seven villages after the unexplained deaths of 17 heifer cattle and six abortions between May and August.

Friday, notably only a few days before the release of this report, Toronto CEO of Barrick Gold Corporation, Aaron Regent, said that the Tanzania mines would be sold off.

He called the North Mara mine “troubled.”

I think it is troubled by more than toxic metals.

According to the London think-tank, Companies And Markets, Tanzania’s mines should be among the most productive on earth, but instead are falling far short of their economic value.

A 2008 report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre estimated that the combined loss to the country over the first seven years of the decade was more than $US400 million!

What?! Mine gold and diamonds and lose a half billion dollars?

The report claimed the loss was a result of low royalty rates, unpaid corporation taxes, and tax evasion by major gold mines.

Regent, on the other hand, insists the Canadian company has paid all taxes and royalties.

So where did one half billion dollars go?