(First published in Norwegian 28 May 2008)
By Erik Hagen
In April, Norwatch wrote about the people in Nyakabale village in Tanzania, who are worried about their health situation. The village is located next to the Geita gold mine, and the population says that their many health problems and poor harvests are due to pollution from the gold industry.
In a recent master thesis, that was finally approved by the University of Dar Es Salaam earlier in May, it was established that the level of heavy metals in the local population’s food plants is up to 9000 times as high the UN’s maximum limits. Soil samples proved a level up to 6000 times the limit.
Kanana Benedicto from Nyakabale village, Tanzania, is one of the Geita mine’s many neighbours. Benedicto says he got skin damages after swimming in a river close to the river. His skin is falling off.
The facsimile on the right is from the Tanzanian daily This Day, which on 3rd May 2008 made an article about Norwatch's coverage fo the story.
"To the extent that we are liable, we will take remedial action.", wrote Alan Fine in AngloGold Ashanti in an email to Norwatch.
But Fine is not yet convinced that the company is responsible for the damage in the area.
"Should we find that conditions indeed represent a threat to community health, we will examine possible programmes, that might include other parties, designed to deal with any such health threat", he wrote.
He wrote that they will do this "even if we are not directly responsible for the conditions". Now the company is starting its own investigations.
Norwatch has got a copy of the thesis from Dar Es Salaam, and has sent it to the company.
"We have been awaiting receipt of the thesis. Having received it, our environmental management colleagues are going to conduct an investigation into its findings with a view to assessing their validity", Fine wrote Norwatch.
Download the thesis here, written by master student Manfred Bitala.
Fine said that the company's investigations will try to establish the extent to which any environmental degradation might be due to AngloGold Ashanti's mining activities, and the extent to which it might be a legacy of a German company’s mining activities in the 1920s and 1930s.
"In addition, we are seeking an independent assessment of the validity of the findings", he wrote.
The findings will be disclosed, and discussed with the local community.
As of 31st of December 2007, the Norwegian Government's Pension fund had shares and bonds in the mining company for 113 million euros. In addition, the fund had shares for 456 million euros in Anglo American, who owns 17% of AngloGold Ashanti.