Demonstrators have blockaded roads in Ethiopia’s unruly Oromia region pressing the government to revoke the renewal of a mining licence for a company owned by Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi because of alleged pollution and health risks to locals.
Protesters have blockaded local roads since April 30, preventing people from going to work and forcing schools to cancel classes, and have said they won’t go anywhere until the 10-year permit for Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Cos is rescinded, Voice of America reported.
They claim chemicals use to process gold at the open pit mine near Shakiso, 358 kilometers (222 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, have polluted water streams and the air, causing humans and animals respiratory illnesses, miscarriages, birth defects and disabilities.
The mine’s licence, first awarded in 1997, was renewed in April for a decade and includes a provision to give 2% percent of profit to the local community, according to the company’s website.
Al-Amoudi, the second richest man in the Gulf and who is of Ethiopian-Saudi origin, was one of the Saudi billionaires and royals who were placed under house arrest in Riyadh late last year after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman took swift measures to crackdown on corruption. In January, he was transferred to a maximum-security prison, Esat reported.