ENDANGERED RESIDENTS TAKE ON EUREKA GOLD MINE OVER HAZARDOUS CYANIDE SPILL

ENDANGERED RESIDENTS TAKE ON EUREKA GOLD MINE OVER HAZARDOUS CYANIDE SPILL

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SOME aggrieved Guruve residents have protested against the discharge of hazardous effluent water containing cyanide by a gold mining company, into a utility river, which is their main source of potable water and which puts the lives of several people in danger.

The Guruve Residents and Ratepayers Association in Mashonaland Central province led by its Chairperson Letios Karembera recently engaged Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who on 3 May 2024 wrote a letter of demand to Eureka Gold Mine, the state-run Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), complaining against the gold mining company’s conduct of negligently depositing cyanide tainted water into Dande River, which is a major source of drinking water for the residents and which violates their right to clean, safe and potable water.

In the letter, Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya protested that the cyanide spillage occurred on 22 April 2024 at Eureka Gold Mine, which uses cyanide for processing gold ore, whereby cyanide ponds overflowed and the cyanide flowed into Dande River, which is the major supplier of water for Guruve Township and its residents.

This was the second spillage at Eureka Gold Mine, the first one having reportedly occurred in February 2024, according to the human rights lawyers.

After the cyanide contamination, the whole of Guruve Township had not been receiving any potable tap water and the affected areas included residential areas, schools, restaurants, churches and other enterprises.

The cyanide spillage into Dande River, Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya said, was the sole cause for the water problems bedevilling Guruve as the residents receive constant supply of tap water every other day.

After the cyanide spillage, Eureka Gold Mine was reportedly supplying a paltry 45 000 litres of water per day for use by Guruve residents against a daily target of 200 000 litres required for daily use, which was not reasonably sufficient to cater for the daily needs of residents.

Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya told Eureka Gold Mine that in terms of section 73(1) of the Constitution, Guruve residents and all people who rely on the Dande River basin have a right to a safe and healthy environment, which is conducive for their well-being and the deprivation of potable water to the dwellers exposed them to diseases such as cholera and this risk was all the more magnified considering that schools were scheduled to open on 6 May 2024 for the second term.

The lawyers said the residents and other people who rely on the Dande River basin have a right to safe, clean and potable water, which right is guaranteed in terms of the provisions of section 77 of the Constitution.

Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya told ZINWA that it could not abdicate its constitutional and statutory duties of providing water supplies to the residents to Eureka Gold Mine.

The human rights lawyers demanded that both Eureka Gold Mine and ZINWA should within 24 hours provide adequate potable and treated water supplies throughout Guruve Township through the use of bowsers and provide dedicated water bowsers at affected schools in Guruve and immediately de-contaminate the Dande River basin.

The ZLHR lawyers also asked Eureka Gold Mine, ZINWA and EMA to inform the residents and villagers of all affected areas up to Mushumbi Pools of the cyanide contamination and to take measures to prevent spillage of cyanide including but not limited to construction of larger cyanide ponds.

A failure to comply with the residents’ demands, the lawyers said, would leave them with no choice but to institute legal proceedings against Eureka Gold Mine, ZINWA and EMA to get redress on behalf of the Guruve residents.

In response to the residents’ demands, Eureka Gold Mine, through James Beare, the Chief Executive Officer of Dallaglio Investments, which is its holding company, admitted in a letter written to ZLHR on 6 May 2024 that there was a spillage into Dande River from its mine ponds.

Beare claimed that the damage and dangers were minimal as the spillage was approximately 120 cubic metres of water with trace cyanide, as the water had already been treated.

Eureka Gold Mine said its employees quickly applied neutralising agents to the effluent to weaken the cyanide as per protocol and hence laboratory tests had confirmed that the levels of cyanide in the water were not very high.

Beare claimed that Eureka Gold Mine in conjunction with ZINWA and EMA as well as the Civil Protection Unit swiftly moved to ensure that Guruve residents were provided with clean water pending the determination of the laboratory tests.

Eureka Gold Mine claimed that ZINWA had since restored normal water supplies to the residents after the gold mining company confirmed that there was no cyanide in the water anymore based on laboratory tests conducted and hence there was no longer any need to supply water to residents of Guruve in bowsers as demanded by the lawyers.

Eureka Gold Mine said it was working with EMA in implementing a comprehensive plan to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

In the long-term, Eureka Gold Mine said it will sink some boreholes in Guruve so that residents will not rely on river water as a source of water.

ENDS

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