Gabon deputy to file complaints against French mining firm

16th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Gabon lawmaker said Saturday he had gathered some 300 complaints seeking damages from a subsidiary of French mining group Eramet, accusing it of endangering the environment and people's health.

"We have more than 300 individual complaints to which will be added those of several national and international NGOs specialising in the protection of the environment," said Jean-Valentin Leyama, a deputy in Gabon's southeast mining region, at a press conference.

"We are seeking damages and interest for the city and the population of some 480 billion CFA francs (731 million euros, 978 million dollars)," he said, adding that the complaints would be filed in court on Monday.

The complaints against the Eramet manganese subsidiary Comilog, in which the Gabonese state holds a stake, were signed by "former workers, inhabitants of the Comilog industrial zone and the general population," the lawmaker said.

"The people explain how their lives and their health have been affected," he said.

The Gabonese deputy also claimed that Comilog, which has been mining manganese since 1962, has had "a considerable negative impact" on the environment as well as people's health with alleged links to "cardio-vascular diseases, lung infections and cancers... as well as vision problems."

In August, the non-governmental organisation Brainforest published a report on the impact of French mining companies Eramet and Areva in eastern Gabon.

It said in Moanda where Comilog operates that water sources had been polluted by mud and waste from its mining of manganese, making it difficult for the population to find drinkable water, and fishing has been abandoned in some areas.

Manganese is Gabon's second biggest export and Comilog is the only company conducting manganese mining in southeastern Gabon, employing 6,500 people.

Last October Eramet said it had reached agreement on increasing the west African country's stake in Comilog to 35.4 percent from 25.4 percent by 2015.

© 2011 AFP

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