Silicosis poses threat to miners, burden to govt -VP

VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Philip Mpango has issued several directives aimed at strengthening the mining sector in the country, including protecting people’s health and environment.

The VP issued the directives in Dodoma on nFriday during the ceremony to mark  the 50th anniversary of the State Mining Corporation (STAMICO).

He said there has been an increase of patients from the mining areas who are affected by dust from the mining sites. He said most of patients suffer from silicosis disease, a catalyst of Tuberculosis.

Dr Mpango said that Kibong’oto Infectious Diseases Hospital in Siha District, Kilimanjaro Region, has an average of 25 patients admitted aged between 20 and 40 who have been affected by dust from the mining sites.

“These patients use about 30 oxygen cylinders per day which cost the government more than 500m/- per year at Kibong’oto hospital alone … some of them have been admitted at the hospital for more than two years while on oxygen,” he said.

He said, according to the health experts, the dust contain silicon chemical which is hazardous to human health causing silicosis disease.

Dr Mpango said a survey conducted by Kibong’oto hospital in collaboration with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre University   found that the amount of silicon in the dust which affects the miners was at an average of 1.227milligramme which is high compared to acceptable standard of 0.05 milligramme.

The VP added that the preliminary results of the study conducted on 330 miners in Mirerani mines in 2021 indicated that 99 miners, equivalent to 30 per cent, were affected with silicosis disease while 26 others equivalent to 6.1 had TB which is 24 times more against the national average.

He directed the Ministry of Minerals ,  the Prime Minister Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disability and Ministry of Health  to ensure  laws and health regulations  in work places  are adhered to  and come up with a system which will control the challenge as soon as possible.

Dr Mpango said silicosis has resulted in increase in number of respiratory diseases, cancer, kidney and heart failures due to dust pollution.

Moreover, he instructed NEMC, State Mining Corporation( Stamico) and Ministry of Minerals to control checks and balance of the mining activities to ensure they are in line with the environment protection guidelines especially in areas where large-scale and special mining activities are carried out.

He further said that the use of Mercury and other chemicals has continued to affect rivers, lakes, ocean and environment in general which also threatens people’s health, crop production, animals and fish stocks in water bodies.

Dr Mpango directed the Ministry of Minerals, STAMICO and National Environment Council to speed up the inspection of mines in order to identify and take legal actions against those which do not abide by laws leading to environment pollution.

He directed the mining companies to ensure that they protect environment and execute their plans of rehabilitating mining sites.

The Vice-President  also directed entities holding special  mining licence and those engaging in large scale mining operations  to come up with plans to rehabilitate   mining sites so that they do not live behind holes which later impact the environment.

Mine rehabilitation is the process of repairing any damage caused by mining activity.

As for the financial institutions, Dr Mpango said the government has come up with a friendly programme that involves issuance of soft loans to empower the small and medium scale miners so that they can graduate into large scale miners, setting the interest at nine per cent.

He warned against the malpractice of involving children in mining activities, saying child labour should come to an end, directing responsible authorities and mining companies to ensure the trend comes to a complete stop.

As for STAMICO which turned 50 years yesterday, the Vice-President instructed them to team up with the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) and come up with the cheapest but state of the art mining and value addition technology which can be accessed by the small-scale miners at low cost.

He warned poor performing public entities and institutions, saying their days are numbered.

For his part, Minister for Minerals, Dr Dotto Biteko commended the efforts to uplift small-scale miners, pointing out that their contribution to the economy has increased by 44.6 per cent.

Moreover, he said, government investment to transform STAMICO has paid off. He said the corporation is currently being run profitably and is paying dividends.

Dr Biteko also commended the corporation for improving its performance in its operation to the extent of being able to compete with other mining companies.

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