Seibeb to question Alweendo on ‘unresolved’ lead exposure findings, again

Henny Seibeb

Deputy leader of the Landless People’s Movement Henny Seibeb yesterday once again questioned minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo in the National Assembly on persistent lead exposure affecting children at Rosh Pinah in the //Kharas region.

Seibeb said the matter remains unresolved as the findings presented by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and by implication the Ministry of Health and Social Services, reportedly lack comprehensiveness.

He said airborne dust particles at the town persist due to the mining company’s use of a truck-operated street cleaner for dust removal.

“What proactive measures does the ministry intend to implement to alleviate the airborne lead exposure impacting the residents of Rosh Pinah? Outdoor play for children is restricted to prevent exposure, adversely affecting their motor skills development,” he said.

Seibeb said despite elevated lead levels, Rosh Pinah Zinc Mine has not engaged industry specialists to address potential chronic illnesses in children, while the administration of vitamins to minors have reportedly proven ineffective in reducing lead levels.

“Additionally is there a plan for the ministry or the mining company to compensate the affected children. If so, when will medical coverage commence, and what will be the extent of financial compensation be, considering the severity of this environmental and human rights violation?” Seibeb asked.

Rosh Pinah Zinc Corporation vice president Sheron Kaviua in October said the mine is providing medical support to all individuals who have been affected, and are relocating all families in areas impacted by lead levels to newly refurbished houses.

She said the mine has updated its environmental management plan to include lead as a community risk, and has commenced air, soil and water emission studies.

Tom Alweendo

The mine would, however, not provide an exact amount of money spent on medical exposure, while the parents of children found with high levels of lead would not speak to The Namibian for fear of reprisal.

The majority of them are employed by the mine.

“Rosh Pinah Mine takes the issue very seriously and has reacted quickly and decisively to support those affected. We are working closely with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Rosh Pinah community to resolve these legacy issues, and are committed to rectifying the situation to ensure that the mine operates in line with international best practice,” Kaviua said.

She said the mine is also taking extensive measures to contain lead and zinc emissions by focusing on suppressing dust at Rosh Pinah Mine and the surrounding areas.

Alweendo said after the lead exposure was brought to the ministry’s attention, it met with the Rosh Pina Zinc Corporation, the health ministry, and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation to discuss the matter.

“It was concluded that the report be submitted to the ministry of health. I am informed that the ministry and the company are addressing the recommendations in the report to manage the situation,” said Alweendo.

He said this in response to a question posed by Seibeb in October.

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