Malawi Catholics sue Australian uranium miner

A coalition of Malawi non-governmental organisations including the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has obtained a court injunction against an Australian uranium miner and the country's government for alleged breaches of procedures.

Citizen reports that a coalition of Malawian rights groups sued Australian firm Paladin and the government yesterday in a bid to halt to a $250 million dollar uranium mine project.

"We have obtained an injunction against Paladin and the Malawian government for flouting procedures about uranium mining," John Chawinga, secretary of the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice, one of the rights groups, told AFP.

He said that the coalition wants the government to "review" an environmental impact assessment of the project, and added the "project is environmentally hazardous and we don't want to take chances with people's lives".

"We have only been told about the economic benefits but Malawians have not been told about the advantages and disadvantages of uranium mining.

"What are the dangers?" Chawinga asked.

The project to mine uranium at Kayelekera in northern Malawi could have "catastrophic consequences for future generations if people are exposed to radiation," he added.

The coalition also said that the project could pollute Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest freshwater body and a source of clean water, fish and employment for millions.

In April, the project by Paladin Africa, a subsidiary of Australia's Paladin Resources and hailed as Malawi's biggest investment ever, received a mining licence after the firm and the government inked a 10-year development deal.

The mining is expected to earn the impoverished nation 220 million dollars annually in export earnings at the end of 2008, representing about 10 percent of gross national product and 40 per cent of current export income.

Martin McAllen, a representative of Paladin, parried concerns about pollution.

"No process or waste waters will be directly discharged into the environment of the rivers, but will be captured in and stored in specially-designed dams and ponds," he said.

Bid to halt Malawi mine project (Citizen, 6/6/07)

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Paladin Resources

Malawi Catholics seek injunction against Aussie uranium mine (CathNews, 10/4/07)

8 Jun 2007