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UK gold firm says Narok cows died of cyanide poisoning

Some of the 18 cattle that died after drinking poisonous effluent from Kilimapesa Gold processing plant in Transmara.  PHOTOS | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NMG
Some of the 18 cattle that died after drinking poisonous effluent from Kilimapesa Gold processing plant in Transmara. PHOTOS | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NMG 

The Kenyan subsidiary of London-based Goldplat Plc, Kilimapesa Gold, has revealed that the 18 heads of cattle that died on its property last week drank water that was contaminated with cyanide.

Cyanide is a deadly chemical used in gold processing.

The effluent flowed from Kilimapesa’s gold processing factory in Lolgorian, Narok County.

Managing director Bob Smith yesterday said the cattle drank from the factory’s safety trench excavated around the property.

“We confirm that there was a spill of cyanide bearing tailings from our TSF (tailings storage facility) after severe rainfall on January 27, 2018. The level of cyanide in the water is normal for gold extraction processes. An investigation of the incident is underway,” said Mr Smith in response to Business Daily queries.

Medical reports say tiny amounts of less than 0.1 grams of cyanide are said to leave victims to die a quick but agonising death.

News reports show the gas has been used in warfare, to administer the death penalty in the United States and to control pests. In the Kilimapesa incident, 18 cows perished. The company says the owner was paid Sh1.5 million.

Mr Smith maintained that no water reached the local stream and did not overflow from the trench which would pose risks to surrounding communities.

“This trench is outside the fencing around the tailings dam. The TSF site is a farm that was bought from the landowner with its own original fencing made from branches,” said Mr Smith.

“To reduce the risk further we have excavated a second trench below the one which was contaminated and have fenced both off.”

He said the 11-year-old herdsman allowed some cattle to enter the TSF site, which is the mine’s property, and they drank some of this water.

The owner of the cows has since been compensated by the London listed miner an amount of Sh1.5 million, Mr Smith said.

The gold miner said it has all the “required licences” to operate as a mine using cyanide to extract the gold.

“These licences where issued by the Ministry of Mining and NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority). The accident has been reported to the Ministry and Nema has already made a site visit,” said Mr Smith.

He added that the gold miner was mulling the installation of a new fence for the entire property.

Kilimapesa sold gold worth Sh375.1 million in the six months ended December, boosted by increased production at its Migori plant.

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