Photograph — Financial Times

The rocky relationship between the Tanzanian government and the biggest miner in the country, Acacia Mining, has taken a rather unpleasant turn this week after the company was fined $2.4 million for alleged pollution at its disputed North Mara mine.

An environmental protection order (EPO) has also been issued against the company by the Tanzanian National Environment Management Council (NEMC), in relation to allegations of pollution from the mine’s tailings dam.

“The North Mara gold mine has been given two weeks to pay the fine and three weeks to rectify the problem at its tailings storage facility,” Tanzania’s mining minister, Doto Biteko said. He also added that tougher measures will be taken against the mine if it fails to comply with the order.

In a confirmation of the EPO issuance, Acacia said that the mine’s technical team has been working “constructively and collaboratively” with the government of Tanzania to address concerns regarding alleged breaches of various environmental regulations and discharges of a dangerous substance from the mine.

Even though operations at the mine are still on following recent events, the company said it has been asked to build a new tailings dam and structure for storing uneconomical ore.

Acacia, which was forced to cut output after the government banned the export of mineral resources from its two other mines (Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi) two years ago, has faced several allegations over its operations at the North Mara mine. One of those incidents led to Acacia paying a fine of $130,148 in January.

The Tanzanian gold producer also faced a threat of closure without notice from Minister Biteko in March over accusations of wastewater pollution at the mine. In response, the company issued a statement disclosing that it had resolved the leakage of contaminated water from a storage dam at North Mara, which was spilling into a stream in the country.

There is also an ongoing $190 billion tax dispute between the company, majorly owned by Canadian Barrick Gold, and the Tanzanian government which has so far limited the mining company’s operations.

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