Debswana caught X-ray machines uproar

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - Debswana Diamond Mining Company and its workers are at each other’s throats over the decision by the former to install X-ray machines at its mines amid fears of possible health effects of the move, it has emerged.

Botswana Mining Workers Union (BMWU) has already handed over a petition to the diamond mining giant in which it would demand the removal of the X-ray machines also known as Scannex.

The union is expected to hold massive demonstrations at the company’s mines end of this month.

The union stated in its petition that its members are not happy that the company has so far failed to allay their fears about the possible health effects of the scanners.

BMWU president, Jack Tlhagale, said an expert engaged by the union on behalf of the workers had expressed fears that exposure to ionising radiation could lead to cell death and cancer, among others.

Tourism minister Tshekedi Khama had opposed Debswana’s decision to install the scanners but a department under his ministry has since given the mining company the go-ahead to erect the machines at its mines. 

BMWU insists that Debswana should set aside the decision to install the machines in line with the union’s objection and the company’s values of “show we care” and “putting safety first”.

“It is only this way that zero harm can be achieved. Diamonds cannot be produced by exposing mine workers to ionising radiation on a daily basis in the same way the apartheid government did in the Republic of South Africa. In real terms, the Scannex scam turns the Botswana diamonds into blood diamonds,” reads the petition signed by the union’s secretary general Mbiganyi Ramokate.

The union expressed fears that Scannex uses ionising radiation, which can kill or deform human cells to form cancer.

“Our difficulty is that all objections from employees against installation of these machines in the mines have been totally ignored. Yet it is the mine workers who will be subjected to ionising radiation emitted by Scannex on a daily basis for as many years as they would stay with Debswana,” the union said.

Debswana has since cited diamond theft as the reason for its decision to introduce Scannex at its mines.

But the union stated that Debswana has failed to provide imperial evidence to show that diamonds are being stolen in alarming proportions to justify the introduction of Scannex.

In its report to the department of environment, Debswana argues that “since diamonds are portable and easily concealable, a diamond thief can conceal the stones in body orifices such as nostrils, ears, mouth, navel, penis or vagina and rectum.”

Debswana spokesperson Matshidiso Kamona confirmed receipt of the official petition and “a planned mass demonstration by the Botswana Mine Workers Union”.

 

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