Independent studies demonstrate that the QMM mine has contaminated the lakes and rivers where local people fish and collect drinking water. The water is found to contain elevated levels of uranium and lead approximately 50 times and 40 times higher respectively than WHO guidelines for safe drinking water, thus posing serious health risks to villagers.
After first denying the breach of the environmental buffer zone, Rio Tinto admits its “mistake” in March 2019. However, it continues to claim that the elevated uranium levels are “naturally occurring” and not linked to the mine operation. Research using QMM water data confirms it is the extraction process itself that concentrates the uranium and heavy metals in the mining pond. To this day, the company has provided no evidence to show it is making discharge waters safe before being released into the environment where villagers use local water sources.
In 2020, Rio Tinto issues a water study undertaken by external provider JBS&G; it is critiqued for failing to observe standard procedure as it omits existing data. The latest QMM wastewater report confirms levels of uranium and lead well above WHO guidelines for safe drinking water and also reveals elevated levels of cadmium and aluminium in mine discharge waters. Demands for safe drinking water provision for the locally affected communities have been repeatedly denied.
The QMM mine and its entire history of polluting the environment, harming people’s health and livelihoods, and suppressing protests is noticeably absent from Rio Tinto’s own timeline.