Documents passed to the Sunday Standard reveal for the first time how the Radiation Protection Inspectorate gambled with miners’ health and safety by approving the installation in Debswana mines of strip body scanners which have not been independently tested and are not internationally recognised.
The Scannex body scanning technology which has been developed by DebTech, the research and development arm of diamond giant De Beers have been rejected by De Beers mines in Canada because they are not internationally recognised. Debswana is a partnership between De beers and Botswana government.
The body scanners are only used in De beers mines in Africa. A scoping report compiled by Debswana consultants, Geoflux has revealed that the Botswana radiation protection watchdog decision was in violation of standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency Atoms for Peace and Development (IAEA)
The scoping report discloses that the IAEA “does not agree with the use of Scannex as the technology is not well justified.”
The Botswana Radiation Protection Inspectorate however approved the proposed use of Scannex by Debswana with conditions as per a letter dated 15 June 2012.
The decision was approved by the Radiation Protection Inspectorate’s board. The scoping report entitled “Environmental Impact Assessment for the Integrated Security Management System Project-Scannex Installation “dated February 2013 shows that Geoflux consultants held a meeting with Radiation Protection Inspectorate managers on 8th November 2012.
In attendance from the Inspectorate were Tshegofatso Zwikula (Environmental Monitoring) and Pako Sebonego (licensing). The objectives of the consultations were given by Elmah Nthebolan of Geoflux whose designation is project social environmentalist.
Asked by Geoflux consultants what international laws and agreements regarding the use of and control of radiation Botswana subscribes to, the management from the inspectorate stated that “our Act is based on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations. Botswana is a member state and complies with the guidelines and standards.”
The Inspectorate added that The IAEA does not agree with the use of Scannex as the technology is not well justified-Debswana is aware of this. The use of medical x-rays is justified by personal health benefits.”
The Inspectorate explained that. The practice of scanning people with radiation is not covered in Botswana laws but the justification has warranted development at Debswana operations.”
The team from Radiation Protection Inspectorate added that “The International Radiation Protection Agency expects us to be autonomous. We do not show leniency for non-compliance and we have the power to stop all operations if regulations are flouted.”
The Department of Environmental Affairs under the Ministry of Environmental, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism has however blocked the use of scanners in Debswana mines in Botswana.