Mine union lobbies Khama against Debswana Scannex machines

22 Jul 2018

The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has turned to the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama in a last ditch effort to stop Debswana Mining Company from installing the proposed X-ray machines.

This follows a letter addressed to BMWU management by Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mine (OLDM) General Manager, Bakani Motlhabani.

In the letter dated 29 June, Motlhabani stated that “Management would like to inform you that Debswana has received correspondence (dated 21st June 2018) from the Department of Environmental Affairs approving our application to install low dose full body x-ray machines, scannex, at our mines.”

Motlhabani added that “management is still going to review the authorization; the conditions set therein and decide on the next steps. We will inform you of any further developments.”

Following receipt of Motlhabani’s letter, BMWU engaged the services of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys to mobilise Khama, the Department of Radiation, Director of Mines and Debswana itself against the decision to approve the installation of x-ray machines also known as scannex.

“Debswana Diamond Company recently furnished our client with a copy of the High Court Case in the matter between Debswana and Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs which is respect of the use of Scannex machine by Debswana,” the union stated in a letter addressed to Khama and copied to Debswana.

It added that “We note from your letter aforesaid and letters proceedings it, giving it context, that you permitted publication of a redacted and/or revised report for the purpose of public review presumably in terms of the Environmental Assessment Act.”

The attorneys state that they have been instructed to “humbly request that the relevant officials of our client and us be allowed access to a non-redacted and revised version of the report on condition that we shall give an undertaking, which undertaking shall be formalized in a written document, that identified persons shall not disclose any confidential and security-sensitive information contained in the report and same will only be used for the purposes of assessing, advising and pursuing our clients’ rights. Under the circumstances, we see no reason why a copy of the requested report should not be provided.”

The BMWU lawyers also state that on or around 19 January 2016, the Director of Environment decided that there shall be a public hearing in terms of section 11 of the Act. “In terms of Section 11(2) of the Act the Honourable minister may in consultant with competent authority prescribe the procedure for conducting a public hearing,” Rantao Kewagamang Attorney state.

They also sought to be “advised what procedures, if any were provided for the public hearing in terms of Section 11 (2) of the Act.”

“Last, last but not least, advise whether or not an Appeals Committee has been set up as provided for by Section 13 of the Act and, if the answer is in the affirmative, please provide us with its content details,” the lawyers states.

In another letter dated 13 July 2018, Radiation board, Radiation Protection Board, and copied to Debswana, Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys stated that on 22 May 2012, the Radiation Protection Board approved the application by Debswana for the use of low dose personnel x-ray machines at Debswana.

“In terms of Section 23 (8) of the Radiation Protection Act the licence issued “shall expire at the end of 24 months of the date of issue,” the lawyers said

They demanded that they be furnished with among others; an application, if any, for the renewal of licence under Section 25(2) of the Act; a request by the Board, if any, under Section 25(2) of the Act, Terms and conditions, if any, under Section 25 (3) of the Act and a new application, if any, under section 26 of the Act.

Another letter addressed to the director of mines states that Debswana recently informed BMWU that it has approved its application to install a lo does full body x-ray machines (scannex) at its mines.

“Kindly advice us how and when each of the steps contemplated in Sections 12 (1) of the Environmental Assessment Act were followed, together with a written statement or reasons in justification of your approval,” the lawyers said.

Replying to Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys, Khama’s office requested that it be given sufficient time to gather more information before responding to the contentious issues raised by BMWU.