Bosai Minerals Group has applied to start mining at Block 16, Kara Kara, north of Richmond Hill, in Linden, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing serious questions over its conclusion that the activity does not warrant an environmental impact assessment (EIA) prior to the granting of an environmental permit.
“The agency has determined that an EIA is not required for [this] project. The application has been screened to assess the potential environmental impacts and it has been determined that [this project] will not significantly affect the environment once mechanisms are implemented to mitigate possible impacts, and there are no fragile ecosystems and habitats or endangered species that will be affected by [this project],” the EPA said in a notice published in the dailies on Friday.
It said that an environmental authorisation with specific conditions for environmental management may be granted to the applicant for the implementation of the project.
But engineer Charles Ceres says that the decision not to call for an EIA for the project was not a sound one, since it can potentially be inimical to human health. He said that the operations to recover the bauxite will include drilling and blasting in areas in proximity to human settlements and there should be consideration given for the residents of the area.
He chided the EPA for not making their findings public when a decision not to require an EIA is made. He said that because of this, the public is not sufficiently informed of the potential dangers to the environment and to their health.
“The EPA and the EAB [Environmental Assessment Board] must make their findings public,” he said, while questioning the technical capacities of the EPA and EAB to carry out certain tests to ensure that activities such as the ones that the planned Bosai development will be engaged in will be safe.
Ceres is concerned about toxic and other harmful particles in the air from the operations of the bauxite company. He also cited other issues, such as ground water runoff and solid waste disposal and said that recent actions by the company only dealt with dust control.
Calls to Bosai revealed that General Manager George Zhao is out of the country and will be returning during this week. This newspaper was told that Zhao was the person authorised to speak on behalf of the company.
Ceres is of the view that the EPA should be more stringent with Bosai because of what he called a history of environmental non-compliance.
On public statements by the company that only fine dust is emitted from Bosai’s operations, Ceres said that all scientific evidence shows that fine dust is more easily inhaled than coarser dust fractions.
He said that International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines state that the danger from silica particles occurs for diameters less than 5 microns which when inhaled can reach the alveoli and lead to lung impregnated disease.
He said that the company’s admission that fine dust is emitted should present justifiable reasons for a detailed quantitative risk assessment to establish the environmental and occupational health issues related to emissions from Bosai kilns. He said that the risk assessment should incorporate factors such as the concentrations at receptors, exposure pathways and exposure duration to determine the excess risks associated with exposure to kiln emissions.
Ceres said that the environmental issues related to the company’s expansion are further compounded by the fact that the Linden area is located in one of the primary recharge areas for groundwater used along the coastal plain. He said that as a result, any contaminants discharged to groundwater can, depending on its mobility, impact groundwater quality, resulting in significantly increased costs to provide potable groundwater to residents along the coast.
Ceres called on stakeholders in Linden to ensure that thy are adequately represented at all meetings to discuss mitigation measures to be put in place to address environmental issues related to Bosai’s operations.