Some high school students in Shakiso (Oromia Region) skipped classes this week to join in the anti-mining protests, which have erupted periodically over the years.

(VOA News)―Demonstrators have taken to the streets in at least a dozen southern Ethiopian towns this week to protest the federal government’s renewal of a license for a mining company that they say jeopardizes local residents’ health.

The protests, in the restive Oromia region, criticize a 10-year license for Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Cos., or MIDROC, to continue mining gold at a site near the town of Shakiso and the Lega Dembi river.

The demonstrations followed the April 27 report of the license renewal for MIDROC, which has operated the mine since the late 1990s. The company is owned by one of Africa’s richest men, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, detained since November in what Saudi Arabia alleges was an anti-corrupt sweep.

“Demonstrators are very angry. They are blocking roads and demanding change,” Dulacha Lafe, administrator for the local Goro Dolaa district, told VOA in a phone interview on Monday, when the protests began. He said local authorities “understand and agree with their concern. However, we don’t have the power to solve the problem. [The] Oromia regional government and the federal government should help us out. The license should not have been renewed at all.”

Some high school students skipped classes this week to join in the anti-mining protests, which have erupted periodically over the years. A Shakiso resident, who asked VOA to withhold his name out of fear of retaliation, said Friday that some students “were beaten because of protesting and asking for their constitutional rights.”

Abdu Kadir, an inspector for the local Guji district government, told VOA: “Some schools have been closed for a few days, and today students are back in class. Nobody is arrested or anything.”

Chemicals blamed for ailments

Protesters contend that chemicals used at the mine contaminate the water and air, sickening humans and animals with everything from respiratory illnesses to miscarriages, birth defects and disabilities.

Also in that report, MIDROC’s environmental protection expert, Ahmed Mohammed, said the company used chemicals including hydrogen cyanide. “[E]ven a small amount” of hydrogen cyanide “can contaminate water and can cause serious consequences,” he said. He did not specify the amounts used in MIDROC’s operations, nor what safety precautions, if any, the company had taken.

Continue reading this story at VOA News
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