By Venatrix Fulmen (*) - 27. October 2018
 

Toxic sludge flows free from the Kenticha Tantalum mine

Finfinne/Oromiyaa - Two environmentalists were killed a forth-night ago and several wounded in a fresh uprising against the illegal exploitations of Tantalum and other minerals in the Highlands of Ethiopia.

The serious incident halted the activity of the exploitation company and was triggered when the community caught people from the company in an attempt to steal a consignment of feldspar - a by-product of the Tantalum production - and to illegally transport the contraband away.

Already two months ago, protests had broken out near Qanxicha (Kenticha) town in the Guji Zone of Oromiya state. The site is located north-east of the Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary and west of Bitata  and Negelle towns in the highlands of Oromiya state. The large scar of the mine at the otherwise green mountainsides can be even seen from space.

Nearby the Guji Oromo people have since long been protesting against the Legadambi gold exploitation by MIDROC Gold Mining - a company, which is owned by highly corrupt and corrupting Ethiopian-Saudi billionaire Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-'Amoudi - often dubbed as Sheik Mo (see: Clinton Foundation Coerced Ethiopian-Saudi Billionaire).

The protests have widened their scope and stand now also against the activities of the Tantalum Mining company near Kenticha . The Tantalum mine is at present owned by the Federal Government of Ethiopia, while the local people mainly protest against the environmental destruction, the toxic pollution and the outright theft of royalties among other criminal acts harming the local population, who don't get any benefit from the exploitation operation.


When peaceful and unarmed protesters surrounded the mining site to stop that illegal consignment from being hauled from the mine, Federal Government forces opened fire, killed two people and wounded many more.

Not much seems to have changed in terms of brutal state response in Oromiya since the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over, but his highly paid propaganda machinery doesn't allow such news to hit the world-press, which is busy with a Saudi state-murder in Turkey and the shootings in the USA.

It has been a long time since the local people have been expressing their opposition against the exploitation of their mineral wealth by outsiders and especially against the harm to their health caused by the toxic chemicals used in the process as well as against the environmental destruction.

Already two month ago the Federal government had arrested and subsequently imprisoned 13 Qanxicha (Kenticha) residents who expressed their opposition to the machinations by the Federal government at the Tantalum mine and led protests. These activists have not been released so far. They were transferred to Negelle prison, which is under the command of the Regional state president Lammaa Magarsaa, who had since long been tasked by the residents to address and stop the widespread lawlessness in the mining industry in Oromiya, but obviously he has not achieved anything for the benefit of the local people and keeps the activists in jail.

RELEASE THE PRISONERS

ECOTERRA Intl., fPcN-interCultural and other organizations have now called on newly selected Ethiopian President Ms. Sahle-work Zewde (@SahleWorkZwede), the first female Ethiopian president and presently sole female head of state in Africa, who among her otherwise more ceremonial duties has the power to pardon, and asked for the immediate and unconditional release of these prisoners of conscious. As a United Nations fostered professional she is certainly tasked to uphold in Ethiopia at least the basic rules set by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The jailed environmental and social activists are:
 

President Ms. Sahle-work Zewde

1. Mr. Salli Jega (Sallii Jegaa), activis leading the Kenticha protests and already survived an attempted assassination.
2. Mr. Tesfaye Boru (Tasfayee Boruu), co-leader, whose brother Petros Boru (Pheexiroos Boruu) was already killed earlier by the guards of the mining company.
3. Mr. Nuguse Qiso (Nugusee Qisoo), another activists who led the protests against the Kenticha mine.
4. Mr. Daniel Gobena (Dan'iel Goobanaa), another activists who led the protests against the Kenticha mine.
5. Mr. Habtamu (Habtaamuu) - father's name not yet known.
6. Mr. Nagessa Culuqe (Nageessa Culuqqee), Youth Leader at the protests against the Kenticha mine
7. Mr. Nuguse Culuqe (Nugusee Culuqqee), activist.
8. PC Habtamu Ijeta (Habtamuu Ijeta), the Kenticha town Police Commander who stands accused of failure to take federally ordered actions against the rightfully protesting residents.
9. Mr. Aschalo Kase (Aschalo Kasa), activist.
10. Mr. Wondimu Ayyala (Wondimu Ayyalaa), activist.
11. Mr. Dasta Beddessa (Dastaa Baddeessa), activist.
12. Mr. Sanyo Guyyo (Sanyoo Guyyee), activist.
13. Mr. Nuguse (father's name not yet known), activist.

BLOOD MINERALS

The Kenticha mine is a world class ore reserve of tantalite with subordinate niobium, lithium, beryllium bearing minerals in addition to high quality ceramic grade quartz-feldspar and other industrial minerals. The rare metal bearing pegmatite within the main Kenticha deposit occurs within a large serpentinite hill that covers about 9 square km. Also the tantalum reserve newly discovered in 2012 is estimated to be of high quality and holds approximately 2,500 tons.

Ethiopian Minerals Development S.C. aka Tantalum Kenticha Mining Enterprise had made an agreement number 054/1993 in 1993 EC/ 2001 GC to produce dolomite, feldspar and quartz on 1,494 hectares of land, but that agreement expired already in 2003 EC/2011GC.

It therefore is undisputed that the Tantalum Kenticha Mining Enterprise has been mining and selling Tantalum and other minerals like Lithium, Feldspar, Quartz and Dolomite for the past 7 years illegally from these sites.

How is it possible without the corruption and involvement in the theft by high governmental officials that for all these years since 2003 EC/2011 GC till now the company has been producing the minerals even without the renewal of its own license?

They never paid the rent for the lease of the land or any royalties, violated even the working agreements and conditions stipulated by the expired contract and completely failed to engage in any rehabilitation of the land and natural environment destroyed by its mining activities.

Those involved with the firm and its activities have polluted the environment to the extent that not only the local population but also dwellers of nearby districts suffer from the serious health effects.

Though the company has never reported its production to the Oromia Mining and Energy Office, it is estimated that not even 2,818,971 ETB in royalty payments and 3,585,600 ETB for the land-lease rent, i.e. not even this sum of 6,404,571 ETB (=228,735.-USD) was paid to the government - not to mention the value of the stolen minerals.

Legal actions against the company have been announced but so far they try to just continue under heavy guard of Ethiopian Federal forces.

Tantalite from the Kenticha mine has been mined illegally and removed from the site. Around two tonnes of tantalum concentrate have also been stolen from a four-tonne stockpile of processed material stored at the plant. The value of the stolen concentrate is estimated to be 2M Birr (US$71,570).

The operation is run by Ethiopian Minerals, Petroleum and Bio Fuel Corporation, which was ordered to suspend mining in December 2017 by the local Environment Protection Authority, because the mine’s tailings dam had exceeded capacity and was polluting the surrounding area.

Tantalum concentrate is supplied mainly to China. The prevailing high demand for tantalum is related to its industrial application in the production of tantalum capacitors, a vital component for the popular cellular telephones (mobile phones).

The Ministry originally floated the international tender to extract and process tantalum and lithium and four companies had shown interest, but Asebe Kebede, deputy director of corporate communications at the Ministry said it had “decided to cancel the bid because all the bidders failed to submit bid security document[s].” Meanwhile the Oromo people demand that the Federal Government stays out of the mining sector in Oromiya.

PROTESTS SPREAD

Since Friday, 26. October 2018, the civic unrest and protests have spread now to many parts of Oromiyaa (Oromia), the constitutionally autonomous state of Ethiopia.

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) declared an unilateral cease fire, is observing it and has signed a peace agreement with the Federal Government.

The protesters postulate:

1. OLF defence force soldiers should not be disarmed.
2. Oromo Youth (Qerro) stand with OLF, and consider themselves as freedom fighters and OLF defence force.
3. The arrested Kenticha protesters have to be released.
4. The killers of the Kenticha protesters must be identified and brought to justice.
5. The killing of people during protests against the present Kenticha and other mining operations must stop.
6. Hand-back the Kenticha and Lagadambi mining sites to the local people and their governance.

Already earlier the freedom fighters of the Oromo Liberation Front were never listed on any of the so-called "terrorist-lists" worldwide, except for Ethiopia, which has now delisted this Oromiya Defence Force also from its own lists.

 

EC = Ethiopian Calender

GC = Gregorian Calender

1 USD = 28 ETB = Ethiopian Birr

 

(*) Investigative journalist and author Venatrix Fulmen can be contacted via e-mail: