The Mozambican government has pledged to do all in its power to mitigate the negative impacts of the mining industry on public health.
The commitment was expressed on Wednesday in Maputo by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, Teodoro Vales, addressing the opening session of the First Health Research Forum on the Extractive Industry, convened by the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM).
The forum comes after a study designated “Impact Assessment on Health for the Engagement of Natural Resources Mining Projects under Sustainable Development Goals (HIA4SD)”, implemented by CISM in partnership with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH).
Vales pointed out that the mitigation of negative impacts is extremely important, given the expansion of mining for resources such as coal, graphite, natural gas, gold, titanium, and precious and semi-precious stones.
“The growing robustness of the mining sector, translated into a growth of prospection, exploration, processing and marketing of such mineral resources, is often attached to negative impacts on the environment, and on the safety and health of both the workforce and communities,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vales declared that the megaprojects of the geological sector in Mozambique, which employ thousands of people, have been recording a sizeable growth, raising the importance of involving even more stakeholders in health assessment and monitoring.
However, he indicated a number of challenges for his ministry in the field of prevention which include the mandatory medical inspections of workers before they are hired, throughout their employment, and after they have left.
The other challenge consists of monitoring risk factors caused by mining activity such as dust, vibrations, and noise, which can affect the health of the workers and of people living in the surrounding areas.
Khatia Munguambe, an HIA4SD co-researcher, has acknowledged the contribution of the extractive industry projects for social and economic development in the form of access to education, clean drinking water and sanitation. However they also cause environmental pollution with a wide range of negative impacts on human health.
“The extractive industry projects worsen existing economic and health inequalities, where women in the poorest households are affected disproportionately,” Munguambe stressed.
But she believes that through the strengthening of impact assessment and of monitoring the projects, the government can seize the potential to promote health and sustainable development within and outside the communities.