Who will be held liable for Chiatura residents?21.09.2009 | 16:26
The Union of Doctors plans to urge the Georgian government to protect health of Chiatura residents. The research has revealed health deterioration as a result of manganese poisoning. The company in charge of mining has gone bankrupt with the Ministry of Economy failing to find its owner. But the state is not in a hurry to assume the responsibility for environment condition near Chiatura.
Residents of Chiatura town (Georgia) and villages around it are complaining of more frequent malignancies as statistically confirmed: in 2007 seven thousand cancer cases were registered with 4.5 thousand lethal outcomes that same year. The number of diseased persons in Imeriti district has increased by 17%. Breast, lung, stomach and cervical cancer are most common. As the Union of Doctors NGO found out the cancer was provoked by industrial waste resulting from manganese ore benefication that accounts for contamination of the Kvirila river. The chemical element is largely present in local drinking water.
As Caucasus Press reports the Union of Doctors is going to address Environment Protection Minister Goga Khachidze appointed to this post on November 1 2008. Besides in August the organization already discussed environmental and sanitary problems with the regional leaders, GHN reports. However it didn't lead to any actions or proposals by the authorities.
As Dietrich Muller, an economic expert, said in his interview with GeorgiaTimes no waste treatment facilities are used at Chiatura mines and the equipment is obsolete. Here is what a blogger writes about his Chiatura impressions after his visit there: "Ore is extracted with stone hammers and spades here! Mines look like a dark inferno with water streaming along rusty constructions. Back to the surface we went to the ore processing mill. I'm simply amazed how all THIS is still operating - I haven't seen anything like this in my whole life. Some human-looking creatures are producing concentrate in a windowless building with holes in the ceiling and a broken floor!"
Muller specified that the industrial waste is stocked in the neighborhood penetrating into soil and the river with precipitation and reaching the drinking water in the end. According to him the residents repeatedly complained about bad ecological conditions but the Georgian government offered no reaction and provided no funds for environment-oriented activities in Chiatura.
In theory the top management of Chiaturmarganets JSC developing the mines could be made responsible for decontamination. But this is even more complicated. Last year the company was declared bankrupt. Neither pensioners nor workers could reclaim due disbursements as the Ministry of Economy... hadn't found the owner.
In 2005 Ukraine's ex president Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law Vikto Pinchuk tried to obtain the development license on the mines that used to provide a large share of USSR manganese exports in 1960-80s. However it was EurazHolding that won in the auction. A while later the company announced lower return on assets than had been forecast, and the company withdrew from Chiatura.
Eventually Chiatumarganets as well as Ferro (Zestafon) and Vartsikhe hydroelectric plant was sold to Georgian Manganese company - a subsidiary of Stemcor (Great Britain) in 2007. Metalltorg.ru reports, the price of three giants of the Georgian industry was USD 132 mln. The buyer promised to invest other USD 100 mln. But a year later Chiaturmarganets went broke and the government failed to find the company owners that were sued for salary and pension arrears.
Manganum Georgia - a production managing company - stated it had nothing to do with Georgian Manganese or Stemcor. Nino Gudzharaidze, Green Aletrative association executive director told Kommersant Radio that the ecologists had initially doubted Stemcor since the company had worked in sales - not extraction - of mineral resources. "A year after the assets were sold there appeared Stemcor-Private Group (Ukraine) alliance». Now Stemcor is lost and it turns out the Private Goup is the sole operator. This company owns over 50% of the world's manganese», - the expert explained.
In March the Christian Democrats called on the government to find at least the Chiaturmarganets bankruptcy manager David Kakabadze for the shareholders and the workers "didn't find him as a living person", Business Georgia reports. In July even president Mikheil Saakashvili made reference to the dismissed workers on manganese mines during his public acknowledgement of the economic crisis in Georgia.
It results there is nobody to take care of the health of Chiatura residents except for the state. But alas the authorities refuse to tackle the problem even for self-promotion.