Gold has tailings Anne Outwater Daily News; Saturday,November 08, 2008 @21:15 I feel relief every time I read that the mining contracts are about to be reviewed. It may relieve some of the discontent at the current use of national treasure. This review of the contracts is a good chance to increase collaboration between business and the nation that is positive in the long and short runs for all those involved. It is not an easy task, because the hopes and needs of a company and a nation diverge. Most capitalist businesses exist to make money for their owners. Most "successful" businesses differentiate between those expenses necessary to stay in business and those expenses characterized as "moral obligations". In the name of "good" business, mining companies usually leave a poisoned environment for the people and the nation, while running off with the valuables. Otherwise the companies would be violating their responsibilities to their shareholders! Therefore the company wants to get in, grab as much as possible as quickly as possible and get out before trouble starts. However, the nation's citizens would prefer a slower process over a longer period of time without being left with the trouble that companies characterize as optional "moral obligations". If the government does not demand different behaviour from companies and require them to meet their obligations to the citizens, the companies almost always will not. No one disagrees that mining is essential. As Jared Diamond (in his important book "Collapse') has pointed out, modern civilization and its chemical, construction, electric and electronic industries depend on metals. Rather, the question is how best to mine metal bearing ores. It is no secret that in mining, trouble often appears early, almost always increases over time and goes on essentially forever. It is a major reason why mining companies like to get in and out as fast as possible. I am not a mining expert but from what I understand almost all mines have problems at the end. One of the problems is mining tailings. What are tailings? Tailings are described by an expert this way: "In gold and precious metals extraction, the valuable ore-bearing rock is ground to the size of fine sand grains and the ore is extracted. For every ton of rock, miners may get a few ounces of precious metal. The remainder is mine tailings." Tailings contain such metals as copper, arsenic and cadmium which are toxic to people, fish, wildlife and lifestock and hence are bad news when they get into the groundwater, rivers and soil. The heavy burden of this poisoned water and soil falls heaviest on those who live nearby and can go on essentially forever. Health effects from the contaminants in mine waste range from mild irritants to cancer. Therefore, when it was reported in the Mining Exploration News in August this year that the Geita Gold Mine is discharging wastes into Mtakuja Dam and that North Mara Gold Mine in Tarime District, Mara Region is discharging wastes into a nearby river, it is necessary that people who care about Tanzania's long term future become alarmed. Already by 2001, Dr Mnali from the University of Dar es Salaam had tested a range of concentrations of six heavy metals at the Lupa gold field. He found average concentrations of Arsenic: 0.44 ppb in water and 5200 ppb in tailings; of Cadmium: 0.03 ppb in water and 500.00 ppb in tailings; of Chromium: 1.4 ppb in water and 270000 ppb tailings; of Copper: 30 ppb in water and 455000 ppb in tailings; of Mercury: 0.25 ppb water and 8700.00 ppb in tailings and Lead: 0.50 ppb in water and 275000 ppb (tailings). These levels of poisons are dangerous to human and environmental health. Likewise Ikingura, Mutakyahwa and Kahatano found that testing mercury in sediments, fish and aquatic plants from African inland and coastal waters revealed (with few exceptions) natural background levels of Mercury concentrations. However, within a few kilometers of mining areas the mercury concentrations sky rocket. But it is no wonder that the mining companies feel bold – on the Tanzania Investment Corporation's website, it is stated in a big red paragraph that "Tanzania's mineral policy aims to attract, protect and facilitate the private sector in mineral exploration, mining and marketing." There is no mention at all about development and protection of Tanzania's citizens within the context of heavy mining. As the mining contracts are reviewed, the government needs to protect the long term interests of the nation. This will entail requiring the companies, among other things, to deal with the problem of tailings. Barick Gold Corporation's Bulyanhulu Gold Mine has implemented a paste solution to tailings. We need independent confirmation as to whether this is an effective long term solution to this serious problem. We must not lulled into believing that public relations efforts such as the building of a few houses or a school or that rehabilitating a hospital are effective long term solutions to the dangers that are on offer.