Ethiopia is expected to release a report on MIDROC’s mercury,

Ethiopia is expected to release a report on MIDROC’s mercury, potent toxins

By Ibsa Abdi, April 29, 2019

Site of MIDROC Gold Mine, Lege Dembi, Oromia, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Petroleum is expected to release report on MIDROC’s alleged environmental pollution. Will this be the redemption day for the Ministry or will it double down the previous lies? Whether the Ministry deliveries the truth is to be seen. However, below is what the scientific evidence shows.  See also enclosed poster.

Mercury is one of the most toxic substance on the planet that continues to be released into our waterways, soil, and atmosphere (Rice, Walker & Wu et al, 2014). Human/ animal mercury exposures chiefly result from breathing in air polluted with mercury vapor and or from ingesting food/water polluted with various forms of mercury.

The first recognized public health disaster due to mercury toxicity occurred in the 1950s in the Minamata city, Japan. Mercury wastewater discharged into the sea from nearby chemical factories bio-accumulated in fish. Consumption of mercury contaminated fish resulted in methyl mercury poisoning of the central nervous system (Hachiya, 2006). Widespread poisoning, hospitalization, and death due to consumption of ethyl-mercury-treated seed also occurred in Iraq in 1971-72 (Skerfving & Copplestone, 1976). Various forms of birth defects were also linked to maternal mercury exposures during pregnancy (Rice, Walker & Wu et al, 2014). These adverse outcomes of mercury toxicity and the scientific understanding of the mechanisms of toxicity prompted the world community, particularly UN member states, to sign the Minamata Convention to ban, phase down, and phase out mercury use. Ethiopia is one of the signatories of the Minamata convention on mercury.

It is to be recalled that MIDROC has been using mercury and cyanide in its mining operations in Ethiopia. Chemical waste from the plants is not properly stored or disposed but released to the rivers/lakes or left in the open field, polluting air, soil, and waterbodies. In fact, mining wastewater containing mercury, cyanide, and other heavy metals pollutes the environment.

Mercury-cyanide chemical wastewater discharges from MIDROC’s mining plants at Lege Dambi has caused widespread human and animal respiratory illnesses, miscarriages, birth defects, and disabilities. The wanton disregard by MIDROC and the government of the crises led to widespread protests. The fear, anger and the widespread protests in Oromia have resulted in suspensions of mining permits. However, environmental pollution has continued due to the presence of toxic chemicals in the environment (soil, water, and the air) as well as in the food-chain.

Now that the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Petroleum announced that it will release the inquiry report on the alleged environmental pollution caused by the MIDROC Gold Mine in the Lega Dembi locality, I would like to submit this and the attached poster to the public that mercury, alone and in combination with cyanide, is truly a potent toxin, based on available scientific knowledge. Anything short of that is a political redress or a fiction at best. It is a fact that there are climate change deniers. There are also individuals who deny toxicity of mercury. Denying does not reduce or burry the truth. Until the root cause is truly acknowledged and recuperative measures are taken, and further release of pollutants is mitigated, mercury’s environmental pollution soon will become a serious health, social, and environmental problem.


Hachiya, N. (2006). The history and the present of Minamata disease: Entering the second half a century. JMAJ.

Rice, K, M., Walker Jr., E, M. & Wu, M et al. (2014). Environmental mercury and its toxic effects. J Prev Med Public Health.

Skerfving, S, B. & Copplestone, J, F. (1976). Poisoning caused by the consumption of organomercury-dressed seed in Iraq. Bull World Health Org.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this article.
    I want to add that the investigators have neither the duty nor the mandate to study the toxicity of Mercury or cyanide as such. The toxicology of the chemicals is old known.
    Rather, the victims want know whether the company used these chemicals, and if so, whether they disposed of them according to the law and international standards without causing any harm to humans, wildlife, and the environment. If not the company should take full responsibility to pay compensation to thousands of victims, remediate the environment. The government should permanently revoke MIDROC’s permission for mining gold in Oromia.

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