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Tanzania: Vice President asks mining companies to check vast dust pollution

VICE President Dr Philip Mpango has called on mining sector stakeholders to ensure environmental protection as frequently mining puts people’s health at risk.

He made these remarks when visiting Kibong’oto hospital in Kilimanjaro region, where was told that 25 youths working in the mines report at the hospital on a daily basis suffering from silicosis, a disease arising from
silica dust pollution mostly in the mining areas.
Mining firms need to control polluting the environment, especially through dust, by coming up with immediate measures to control dust, to stem the silicosis disease which afflicts youths of 20 to 40 years of age.
Dr Mpango directed that a team be formed involving ministries of health, labour, youth and employment as well as minerals to ensure occupational safety and health requirements are observed in mining areas.

Mining firms need to provide for the protection of persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of risk factors like dust, he specified.
“There are using a minimum of 30 oxygen gas cylinders a day, costing the government 500m/- annually for such treatment,” he said.
A majority of those being treated for silicosis are subjected to oxygen machines for two years, which calls for urgent measures to control the situation, he stated.
A study conducted in 22 mines at Mirerani area has shown that the level of silica is 25 per cent above internationally recommended averages of silica dust in the mining areas, he said.
The highest silica dust level in mining is supposed to be 0.03 milligram but a sample taken among 330 miners in 2021 showed silicon dust presence of 1.227 milligrams, far above healthy levels/ Upwards of 30 per cent of the miners sampled were found with silicosis and 20 per cent with tuberculosis, he said, raising alarm that silicosis has
resulted in an increasing number of respiratory diseases along with cancer, kidney and heart failure.

The VP instructed NEMC, the State Mining Corporation (STAMICO) and the Ministry of Minerals to audit the environmental situation at mining sites to ensure they observe anti-pollution guidelines.
He demanded that large-scale miners come up with plans to rehabilitate the environmental situation at the sites to avoid leaving behind ‘holes’ as they later impact the environment.
Some experts have at times wondered if those sites can be leased to fish farmers to pump water from wells or lakes and start major fish farming projects while greening a wide section of the surrounding environment.
While the link between small-scale mining and dust pollution needs to be studied, there is a need for financial institutions to come up with a friendly soft loans programme to enable small miners to move up, which can be
done at a nine percent interest rate, he said.

Child labour at mining sites similarly needs to come to an end, he said, affirming that regulatory agencies and mining companies have been instructed to ensure this habit comes to a complete stop.
The VP took a moment to salute the mining entity, STAMICO which turned 50 years yesterday, demanding synergies with the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) to solve mining and value
addition technology accessible to small-scale miners at a low cost.

He pointed at poorly performing public entities saying their days are numbered, while rewards await those doing well.
Minerals minister Dr Dotto Biteko commended efforts to uplift small-scale miners, as their contribution to the economy was rapidly increasing by 44.6 per cent.
Government efforts to transform STAMICO had paid off as the corporation now runs profitably and pays dividends, he said. The entity conducted innovations in its operations, thus being in a position to compete with other mining companies, he added.

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