Thursday, October 1, 2020

Debswana Scannex ÔÇô Government climbs down

Government has climbed down from its decision to block the use of low dose x-ray, Scannex machines at Debswana mines.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has backed out of what promised to be a fierce legal battle with Debswana and secretly authorized the diamond mining giant last week to install Scannex machines at its mines.

The Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs last week authorized the installation of Scannex machines on the eve of a court hearing case which was scheduled for 20th June at the Gaborone High court.

“There was no court hearing. The authorization was secretly granted, up to now there has been no official announcement on the matter,” disclosed a source that preferred anonymity last week.

Contacted for comment, The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources Tshekedi Khama confirmed that Debswana has been granted authorization.

Khama expressed disappointment saying, , “I am not impressed that the Attorney General did not defend at court. I found everybody waiting for me in the office to relay the decision that the Scannex has been given authorization.  I was distressed that our very own department was not standing on the side of the health of Batswana. I am still of the conviction that the equipment has to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it will not affect employees.”

He further revealed that, the decision was forced because the Attorney General had not submitted papers opposing Debswana’s affidavit. Commercial benefits should not override human safety and health, he said.

The Attorney General, Abraham Keetshabe would not comment on the issue saying “I do not anything about Scannex.”

The minister further referred this publication to the Ministry’s permanent Secretaries and the Department Directors whom he said were fully responsible for the approval.

Responding to the Sunday Standard inquiry, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Thato Raphaka confirmed that, “indeed the Ministry through the DEA has conditionally approved the Scannex Environmental Impact Statement.”

Some of the conditions to note which Debswana has to observe are that:

a.    Debswana shall obtain health clearance associated with routine exposure to ionizing radiation  emanating from the use of Scannex from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Department of Radiation Protection before project implementation;

b.   Debswana shall ensure strict adherence to the Scannex Scanning Policy, Scannex Scanning Procedure, Scannex Radiation Safety and Protection Programme and Terms and Conditions for the Developer to use the Scannex machines issued by the Radiation Protection Board as contained in the statement;

c.    Debswana shall ensure that annual dosages received by all persons subjected to Scannex machines as a routine exercise do not exceed the international maximum exposure limits of 1 mSv per annum. Daily limits and the As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle shall be adhered to;

d.   Debswana shall also closely liaise with the Department of Public Heath before and during the installation as well as the entire operation period of the Scannex machines to address public health and safety issues and concerns related to the routine use of X-Ray full body scanning machines;

Raphaka further indicated, the above conditions necessitate clearance of the health issues associated with exposure to low dose radiation with authorities that are competent with regard to heath and radiation matters.

Botswana Mine Workers Union, which has strongly opposed the installation of Scannex yesterday (Saturday 30th) petitioned the Debswana Managing Director, Balisi Bonyongo on the use of the technology.

BMWU President, Jack Tlhagale said, “BMWU members in Debswana operations had set for mass demonstration at Jwaneng and Orapa over the weekend. They were petitioning Debswana MD over introduction of Scannex in the mines.”

Surprisingly, since last week Debswana was not aware of the approval until this week Thursday.

Bonyongo acknowledged of receipt of the petition. At the time he however was not aware that government had given Debswana provisional  authorization to install Scannex machines. “I have not received any news on the authorization of Scannex. If they have done so, I have not received that information as yet. I am only aware of the employees’ petition.”

Debswana on Thursday 28th confirmed that, “Debswana has received the letter of approval today 28th June 2018 to install Scannex machines. We are still going through the letter and the conditions set therein,” reads Corporate Affairs Manager Matshidiso Kamona’s response,.

De Beers technology arm, “DebTech” company has been engaged to supply Debswana mining company with the Scannex machines, in all its mines. The machines are 10 in total.

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