The community of Morija has complained that they have for years raised their concern on the air pollution and noise coming from blasting and grinding of stones caused by mining of quarry in their area, to no avail.
The quarry mine, 40 kilometers South of Maseru at Morija, extracts cobalt stone which is crushed to make concrete stones.
With that production, comes out dust which pollutes the air and becomes a health people living nearby. The dust also lands on, among others, washed clothes hanged to dry outside homes, making them dirty again.
One of the community members ‘Machabeli Nts’ohi (55) from Letlapeng, 700 meters from the mine, popularly known as Semphuroaneng, related how her parent’s house had been patched to stop it from cracking without any success. She said her parents’ house had been well built but had constantly been cracking due to continuous blasting.
“I grew up in this house and it started having cracks on the walls after the mining operation at Semphuroaneng. When I’m inside the house I can see the outside through the cracks on the walls” she said, adding that during blasting, the houses shook to an extend that utensils fall to the ground. “We have now resorted to using enamel and plastic plates because they are not easy to break. All people in this village inhale dust from the mine throughout the day. We are worried that we might catch TB as a result of the dust from the mine.,” said Nts’ohi, who said she also feared for the nine people living in her parent’s four-roomed house.
Ntsóhi is one of the many people at Morija who wishes the mine could stop operating for the sake of their peace and health.
One of them Nyolohelo Malakane, who is also a concerned resident wanted the mine to close because it was polluting the air. She also feared that people might contract TB from inhaling the dust. Her view is that even though some locals were employed by the mine, they were being paid a pittance, which did nothing for their welfare, considering the effects of the mine.
However, ‘Malerato Khomari (70) feels the mine could at least warn them before blasting takes place so that they could be prepared. She said the explosive sound caused panic to young children, the elderly and their domestic animals.
“This mine causes a lot of problems for us as we are not informed earlier about the blasting for us to be prepared for the big explosion. Even though we do not have a report of anyone contracting Tuberculosis due to the mine, we suspect our children working there might contract it as they are close to the operation,” said Khomari.
She wishes the mine could extract responsibly because it was providing employment for young people in the area and could continuously sprinkle water on the gravel road going to the mine to reduce the dust.
She added that the mine used to give the community, through their responsible committees M20 000 for development but they suspected that the money was being embezzled. In response to this allegation, which was corroborated by other villagers, the Treasurer of a newly selected Morija-Semphuroaneng Development Committee Hantsi Makume, said they were investigating allegations of misuse of funds by committees that came before them. He said the main responsibility of the committee was to develop the road and water infrastructure at Morija with the funds donated to the community by the mine.
“I am new in the Morija-Semphuroaneng Committee whose responsibility is to embark on projects that could lead to an end of poverty within the community. We want to maintain the water infrastructure and the houses which have cracked as a result of mining activities at the quary mine. We are also going to start chicken, piggery and livestock farming projects so that our people can live healthily,” he added.
Meanwhile, in response, the Spokesperson of Moradi Crushers which is running the mine, Tseliso Makatise explained that various dust suppression mechanisms were in place to mitigate against dust pollution in the area, adding that records of these were available,” said Makatise.
He stated that his company was engaged in community social responsibility initiatives such as construction and refurbishment of numerous schools in the area, adding that the company also provided a yearly stipend to the Letlapeng and Ha-Molungoa villages.
“During the El-nino induced drought of 2015/16, we supported the surrounding communities with water for household consumption and watering tubs for animals. We have since taken on agriculture/food security as our main social responsibility initiative. We have constructed a greenhouse where crop production is done. We have collaborated with the Morija Resource Centre to bring the facilities close to the communities. Furthermore, various dust suppression mechanisms are in place to mitigate against dust pollution and records of these are available,” he added.
Makatise said Moradi Crushers did not prevent workers from forming a union as long as they followed the Labour Code Order 1992 adding that the mine employed majority of Morija residents on a permanent basis, giving them first priority for employment.
On the other hand, the Mining Engineer at the Department of Mines, Moeketsi Lebitso has said his department did periodical inspections at the mine and has advised the mine to use water to mitigate the effects of dust emanating from the quarry mine.
He added that the Minerals and Mining Policy of Lesotho (2015) requires that all steps were necessary to ensure the mining industry of Lesotho upheld the highest standards of environmental protection, setting up obligatory standards and the accompanying rules and compliance procedures for upholding the highest standards of mine health and safety.