There have been demonstrations in at least a dozen southern Ethiopian towns of Ethiopia’s Oromia Region this week to protest against the federal government’s renewal of a licence for a Saudi company, Mohammed International Development & Research Organisation Companies’ (MIDROC). With the 10 year licence, MIDROC will continue mining gold at a site near the town of Shakiso and the Lega Dembi river.
The demonstrators’ main grievance is that the gold mining activity has been causing pollution, affecting people and the ecosystem. Among a host of concerns, people from the communities argue that the chemical used in the mining process pollute water resources.
Local residents are also concerned that MIDROC has been mining in the area without any investment in the community, according to Galchu Halake, a community leader and one of the protesters in Arkalo town.
“They want the license to be revoked since the company has been mining gold for export without contributing to the local economy or the society’s well-being,” Galchu said.
On behalf of the government, Bacha Faji, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, said the renewed contract’s terms direct a share of the company’s earnings to local communities.
“Two percent of the income the company generates will go to locals,” Bacha said in an interview with the BBC this week. He said that decision followed a government investigation “into what the company was doing for the past 20 years” and factored in local grievances.
In a 2016 report, the international organisation, Human Rights Watch, highlighted mining-related environmental degradation, health risks, displacement of housing and “the failure to hire local labour as the main concerns of communities. The report focused on Ethiopian security forces’ crackdowns, including “the killings and mass arrest of protesters” over gold mining and other issues.
The article was adopted from a Voice Of America Report and edited for African Mining Brief magazine