DAR ES SALAAM, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania's environmental watchdog said on Friday it has slapped a fine of 5.6 billion Tanzanian shillings (about 2.4 million U.S. dollars) on Acacia Mining's North Mara Gold Mine after it was found leaking contaminated water into residential areas and water sources.
Samuel Gwamaka, Director General of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), said the mining firm has also been given a three-week ultimatum to rectify weaknesses identified in its sewage disposal infrastructure.
Gwamaka was briefing the Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office responsible for the Environment, January Makamba, and the Minister for Minerals, Dotto Biteko, on their official visit to the mining firm in Mara region.
Gwamaka said an investigation carried out by NEMC and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) found that Acacia leaked chemical effluents into residential areas and water sources, putting people's health at risk.
The ministers said it was not the government's motive to punish the firm for the leakage but the aim was to ensure the safety of the people and the environment.
"The government wants to get a share of the profits you make from mining gold but we are obliged to protect people's health and lives as well as our environment," said Makamba.
He added: "We have noted that the mining process itself has no problem, so we won't revoke your license or stop mining activities."
Biteko commended NEMC and UDSM experts for conducting the investigation that enabled the government to take appropriate action.
In September, last year, Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered NEMC to probe pollution allegations against Acacia Mining's North Mara Gold Mine.
For the past 10 years, residents in villages near the gold mine have been complaining that effluents released by Acacia Mining's North Mara Gold Mine were polluting water in Mara River and Tigite River, posing major health hazard to the residents.