Dar es Salaam. Opposition party CHADEMA on Monday rejected the preliminary findings from the investigation into the dam breach at Petra Diamonds’ Williamson mine which reports indicate affected an estimated number of 19 households and 59 individuals in Tanzania’s northern region.
On Saturday, the team formed by Shinyanga regional commissioner Sophia Mjema to look into the accident said that the public has no reason to fear following the breach, noting that the mud released from the factory is harmless.
Musa Kuzumila, the government’s chief chemist in the Lake Zone, told journalists on Saturday that based on the investigation, it was found that the mud is harmless both to human beings and animals.
“There are no chemicals that are known to be harmful to human beings and animals in the mud,” Mr Kuzumila was quoted as saying. “In fact, the water that this mud entered can be used for human consumption.”
Mr Kuzumila’s assessment supported the one by the Managing Director of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) Dr Samuel Gwamaka who told reporters on Friday that the public has nothing to fear because the mud is “neither harmful nor poisonous.”
But speaking with The Chanzo on Monday, CHADEMA regional chairperson for Shinyanga Mr Emmanuel Ntobi said that the opposition party is not going to settle for that and that it’d wait for the full report of the investigation before they believe the findings presented.
“We do not want to believe that the mud is as harmless as these people have reported,” Mr Ntobi said during the interview. “There are reports of livestock being died after coming into contact with the mud. Some children were rushed to hospital. How can you say the mud is harmless?”
According to reports by Ms Mjema, the breach at the Williamson mine caused mud to spread to residential areas, affecting a total of 19 households and 59 individuals.
“There were three children who experienced vomiting because of the mud flow but they were rushed to hospital and they are doing fine now,” Ms Mjema told journalists on November 8, 2022.
She named Ng’wangh’oholo and Nyenze as the two villages most affected by the breach, with their houses and farms covered by mud from the mine.
Ms Mjema said that already food has been supplied to the villagers to help them cope with the effects.
On Monday, Mr Ntobi told The Chanzo that there is no wisdom in rushing things up, saying CHADEMA will remain calm until the report is released to the public and they will make their own reading.
“CHADEMA wanted to see for ourselves the report by the investigation team and make our own reading,” he said. “They say the report will be out in public on November 20, . We will wait for that. But until then, we reject these preliminary findings.”
On November 8, 2022, Petra Diamonds, a Jersey-based diamond mining group, announced that it was halting operations at its Williamson mine after a tailings storage facility burst, causing mud flooding in nearby areas.
The company, which also operates three mines in South Africa, said the eastern wall of Williamson’s tailing dam was “breached,” but said in an email that the pit was not affected.
Petra noted that there were no injuries or fatalities confirmed so far, adding that the government and mine emergency response teams had been mobilized to the site.
Hadija Said is a Dar es Salaam-based The Chanzo correspondent. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.