Cabinet keeps hawk-eye on Tsumeb smelter

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Windhoek

Cabinet has announced several monitoring measures and mechanisms to ensure that Dundee Precious Metals operations at Tsumeb are in line with health and environmental standards.

Information Minister Tjekero Tweya made the announcement to the media on Tuesday when he provided an update on the Environmental and Health Audit of Dundee Precious Metals (formerly Namibia Customs Smelter) in Tsumeb.

According to the audit, several former employees of the mine are currently suffering from cancer and skin conditions as a result of exposure to sulphuric acid at the mine. Several deaths related to such exposure have also been recorded.

The measures taken include a directive given to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to conduct a closure audit and to ensure that Namibia Customs Smelter meets all Namibian environmental standards going forward.

The audit must also include the issuing of long-term monitoring arrangements of the operations of NCS by the environmental commissioner.

Cabinet also directed the agriculture, water and forestry ministry to continue with monitoring the water quality of the NCS boreholes and other water resources in Tsumeb.

The management of the mine is also expected to submit a plan and budget for a Hazardous Waste Disposal site for Cabinet’s consideration.

Tweya said the measures were devised to ensure the mining operations of Dundee Precious Metals in Tsumeb do not further disadvantage the environment, as well as its employees.

He also said the mine needs to operate in such a way that it does not negatively impact its surrounding environment and the people close to it.

“Obviously, we don’t want to close it, because Tsumeb became a town because of that mine, but the mining activities should not be carried out at the expense of our people,” he said.

It is not the first time the mine’s operations are being probed. In 2011 government instituted a technical audit of the Tsumeb-based facility over alleged environmental damage and human poisoning as result of the mine’s operations.

Government at the time roped in a team of environmental and occupational health specialists from the United Nations Development Programme to provide assistance with the investigation.

Dundee Precious Metals on Tuesday announced that the commissioning of the N$2.7 billion high-tech sulphuric acid plant is due to take place early in 2016. Once in full operation, it is said, the plant would help reduce toxic emissions from copper smelting.

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