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Article

20 May 2022

Author:
Pascalinah Kabi, MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (Lesotho)

Lesotho: Father blames Diamond mine for his 13 years old child’s untimely death; includes company comments

‘Lesotho communities blame diamond mine pollution for trail of sickness, death and ‘poisoned pasture’ 15 May 2022

Sitting in her modest hut in the rural enclave of Patising in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the 52-year-old Mapontso Lematla says she first spotted the discoloured water in the local stream decades ago. “This water causes stomachaches and diarrhoea,” the soft-spoken Lematla said in an exclusive interview with MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism. Many residents in the Patising and Maloraneng communities, who live downstream from Letšeng Diamond Mine and rely on surrounding natural water sources for drinking and other household chores, tell stories of the blue and black water and believe this pollution is the cause of illness and death. Lematla describes how the Patising stream sometimes overflows with mine tailings (motoro in local language).

…In March this year, a Maloraneng father, Reboneng Matubatuba, blamed the death of his 13-year-old son on the mine. Matubatuba says his son, who was crippled shortly after his fifth birthday, succumbed to diarrhoea and sharp stomachache after inhaling polluted air coming from a Letšeng blasting operation. Matubatuba’s son inhaled the “odour from the smoke coming from Letšeng”. The next day, the deceased had diarrhoea that lasted for a month, leading to his death. “A dark emission came towards the village and an odour was smelled all over the place. He complained about the odour. The following day, he woke up with diarrhoea.

…A postmortem was not done as this is expensive and not something that is an option for poverty-stricken Patising and Maloraneng communities. In a statement to MNN, Letšeng Diamonds chief executive officer, Kelebone Leisanyane said: “Any suggestion of the company’s activities having adverse impacts on the health of the community members is baseless”. Maluti Community Development Forum (MCDF), an interest group that defends the rights of the poor communities in the Lesotho’s mining areas, claims there have been at least two deaths suspected to be associated with the water contamination in Patising and Maloraneng villages.