Protest in Adola town on May 08/2018
Liyat Fekade / AS
Addis Abeba, May 09/2018 – Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoMPNG) said it cancelled recently renewed controversial license of MIDROC Gold, the largest gold mine in Ethiopia after protesters took to the streets for the last ten days. Today’s decision by the ministry followed the killing of two protesters yesterday by the Oromia regional state’s security forces in the town of Shakiso in Guji zone of the Oromia regional state in southern Ethiopia. A third, businessman named Shakiso Guta was also killed by security forces while driving to the city of Adola, according to activists.
The ministry renewed the license for Ethiopia’s largest gold mine owned by MEDROC Gold and is located in Lege Dembi, Shakiso Weredas of Guji zone in Oromia regional state, around two weeks ago. The protests erupted last week in Shakiso and Adola towns and their environs following news of the renewal of the gold mine’s license for another ten years by the Ministry .The license has been suspended last year after similar protests erupted.
Several subsequent media reports, including one by the Oromia Broadcasting Network, and the BBCAmharic service revealed grave health crisis among the community including birth defects, respiratory problems and miscarriages, which the locals blame were caused by the gold mine’s two decades discharges of toxic substances including, cyanide.
Residents of Shakiso, a town in Guji Zone, #Oromia Region in southern #Ethiopia, complain of various sufferings: from birth defect to gradual disability, due to toxic waste of cyanide coming from Lega Denbi gold mine, owned by #MIDROC of Sheik Al-‘Amoudi https://t.co/RKrjWRlYIj pic.twitter.com/mm7SdHbl3I
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) December 11, 2017
The ministry said the license will remain suspended until after an independent study involving several stakeholders is conducted in to the allegations of the health crisis. Over the weekend, Motuma Mekassa, who was the minister of MoMPNG when the license was renewed and who is currently the minister of defense, went to the area to discuss with the locals about their concerns. But the meeting ended without results.
Last week, Dr. Negeri Lencho, communication head of the Oromia regional state, said that “any investment should be there to help the people, not hurt them.” He also said the regional government will not work against the demands of the people.
Good AM #Ethiopia!
Dr. Negeri said this in response to the ongoing public protest in #Guji Zone after the fed. gov renewed MIDROC Gold’s license. The people living in the area are suffering a health crisis, including severe birth defects, caused by the gold mine’s use of cyanide pic.twitter.com/ZjDa1wJyJV
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) May 2, 2018
MIDROC Gold was established in the late 1990s by Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi, the Ethiopian born Saudi billionaire currently imprisoned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MIDROC contributed 98% of the share while the government owned the remaining two percent share through Ministry of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED). MIDROC then took a 20-year concession under registered license name of ‘Midroc Lege Dembi Gold Mining’ for a US$172 million and started production and export in 1998. According to information obtained from its website in the first ten years of its registration the company has extracted 34,000kg of gold from the site and earned about US$500 billion.