Malawi Catholics seek injunction against Aussie uranium mine

Malawi's Catholic justice commission has joined other NGOs in a legal bid to block Australian mining company Paladin from opening a controversial uranium mine because an environmental impact assessment allegedly fails to address mining effects on local people.

Mineweb reports that the Malawi government has given the Australian company license to kick-start its uranium mining project - the country's second forex earner after tobacco.

However the report says that NGOs (non-governmental organisations) has challenged the decision in court, seeking an injunction against the company from going ahead with its plans to start mining uranium.

The coalition claims, according to Mineweb, that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was "half-baked as it did not address the negative impact of uranium mining on the people."

"There are shortfalls highlighted in the EIA report to which government has not responded - for instance issues of protecting citizen's rights and health," John Chawinga of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, one of the organisations that have gone to court, told the local press.

"The citizens have complained but government is negligent that's why we want to try the courts so that they help us resolve this."

However, not only does Paladin have the support of the Malawi government in the project but also chiefs surrounding the mine. One of the senior chiefs there, Chief Karonga says he sees no reason why the NGOs should stop the implementation of the project.

He accuses some organisations have taken advantage of Paladin's project in this district that borders Tanzania to become famous.

Concurring with the chief, Malawi's Minister of Energy and Mining Henry Chimunthu Banda said government followed all the procedures before the mining company was granted a license, including consultation with experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, to which Malawi is a Member.

Canadian Catholics celebrate mining victory

Meanwhile, the Western Catholic Reporter reports that Catholic organisations working to ensure Canadian mining companies operating overseas respect the environment and human rights can celebrate a small victory after the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility advisory group released a ground-breaking report endorsed by industry and civil society representatives that could make Canada a leader in this area.

"It's a major step, part of a long ongoing process," said Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organisation for Development and Peace. "It's important to realise this is only the first step."

Last fall, Development and Peace began the action campaign Calling Canadian Mining to Account, to encourage the Canadian government and Canadian mining industry to adhere to the same standards in developing countries as they do at home, Casey said.

Development and Peace sent postcards to parishes across Canada for parishioners to send to foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay who launched the roundtable process last year to investigate ways of improving mining practices overseas.

These roundtables were held in major cities, starting in Vancouver, last June.

Backing the plan, Gatineau Archbishop Roger Ebacher wrote in a February letter that "we must move towards a vision of corporate social responsibility, which cannot be reduced to corporate voluntarism alone, but must be complemented by a social responsibility regulated by the state and national organisations".

Paladin gets Malawi mine go-ahead, but NGO opposition steps up a notch (Mineweb, 8/4/07)
Catholics call mining companies to a roundtable (Western Catholic Reporter, 8/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Paladin Resources
Development and Peace Canada

10 Apr 2007