THE final report on the investigation into alleged human and environmental poisoning caused by the Tsumeb smelter will be released soon and might contain far-reaching consequences for the community and the smelter.
Environment and Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah told The Namibian that the report will soon be tabled before Cabinet, where all the aspects would be discussed and a final decision taken on the way forward.
The preliminary report of the investigation into Namibia Custom Smelters (NCS) at Tsumeb indicated that the uptake of arsenic at the smelter is excessive and represents a serious health risk to a substantial number of workers.
At the same time the Canadian mining company Dundee Precious Metals (DPM), which took over the smelter in 2010, warned that the Tsumeb smelter with its more than 800 employees will close down if it does not continue to import and treat complex concentrates - which the smelter was originally designed for.
The smelter will not be able to survive without importing concentrate.
At the centre of the controversy is the fact that copper concentrate imported from Bulgaria is said to contain a high level of arsenic.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said the investigation took a little longer than anticipated because samples were sent to the National Institute of Occupational Health in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I have studied the report and now it is only the Cabinet that must deliberate on it after which it would be taken up with NCS and be made public. Keep in mind that part of the terms of reference of the investigation is that recommendations should be made and Cabinet must decide on the approval of these recommendations."
According to the preliminary report, the NCS emits about 60 000 tons of sulphur a year into the environment in the form of sulphur dioxide. This can cause acid rain, which kills plants over a wide area and causes breathing problems for people.
The report said emissions from the smelter's chimneys require attention.
Since Dundee acquired the Tsumeb smelter in 2010 it has spent more than N$800 million to upgrade smelter operations in order to safeguard the health and safety of workers and protect the environment. An additional N$800 million is committed for the construction of an acid plant that will significantly reduce sulphur dioxide emissions and create more jobs.
The Environmental Management Act came into operation on April 1, when the Environmental Commissioner, Theo Nghitila, was appointed.
It was found that the Environmental Management Act would be the best law under which to deal with the smelter debacle. The recently established Environmental Commission will enforce the recommendations made by the experts.
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