Tsumeb smelter cancer cases not related to arsenic exposure
Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb (DPMT) has resorted to extending its wellness programs to encourage healthy lifestyle changes amongst employees after the company was previously false implicated of having compromised the health of workers through arsenic exposure.
DPMT Public Relations Officer (PRO), Alina Garises told The Villager last week that the company was exonerated by a government initiated medical study after allegation surfaced that various employees and former workers contracted cancer after arsenic exposure at their place of work.
Garises, however, noted that the medical study conducted in 2012 found that the reported cancer cases had no link to exposure from potent poisons at the copper smelter plant.
Various media houses, including The Villager, reported in 2011 that employees at the then Namibia Customs Smelter in Tsumeb had contracted cancer due to exposure to dangerous arsenic gas fumes during the copper smelting process.
“The results of the study confirmed there were no cases of cancer attributable to arsenic exposure. The survey found 4 confirmed cancer cases among 1,700 people, a number that is very small for a survey of this size and as such all the cancer cases could not be attributed to working at the smelter” said Garises. DPMT.
In the previous article a number of employees had approached The Villager claiming that they had been diagnosed with various forms of cancer due to exposure at the smelter.
“Over 1,700 people were tested, including the individuals referred to in the original article” said Garises.
DPMT extended its free wellness program to cover more conditions, also implementing targeted nutrition programs and adding three onsite nurses and a medical practitioner.
“When DPMT purchased the smelter in 2010 the company knew the operation had not kept pace with accepted environmental protection practises. Upon arrival DPMT implemented immediately an ambitious plan to bring the smelter up to internationally recognised environmental standards” said Garises.
DPMT first improved the arsenic storage and handling by investing N$1,765 billion (USD$ 110 million) to improve the arsenic processing, improving plant working conditions and reducing arsenic dust exposure to employees.
“DPMT developed the Arsenic Management Program to ensure best practices as they relate to all aspects of responsible management, monitoring, stewardship, storage and neutralization of arsenic by-products at our sites” said Garises
She went on to add that DPMT constructed and brought the arsenic storage site to appropriate standards by installing a system of liners in the site. The site is licensed by the government, getting regular inspections and is comparable to disposal sites around the world.