News / Africa

    Thousands of South Africans Live Near Toxic Mine Dumps

    Children jump rope at the Tudor Shaft squatter settlement near Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, South Africa, January 26, 2011.
    Children jump rope at the Tudor Shaft squatter settlement near Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, South Africa, January 26, 2011.
    A century of digging for gold has created a silhouette of mine dumps all around the South African city of Johannesburg. The legacy of intensive soil excavation in South Africa’s economic capital is toxic waste and radioactivity, posing serious health problems for thousands of South African living nearby them.

    The rain has just stopped in Tudor Shaft, a poor township in Mogale City, a one hour drive from Johannesburg. Jeffrey Ramoruti walks on the muddy track amid the crowded shacks and points his finger toward an orange looking hill 10 meters away.

    “This is the mine dump. It is not safe for the children to play inside because the soil is not suitable for the people," he said.

    It is one of hundreds of mine dumps around this city of 3.2 million people.

    Around this particular dump, a thin plastic strip fence is supposed to prevent Tudor Shaft’s 2,000 residents from entering the site. It is a dangerous zone: the radioactivity level here is 15 times higher than normal. It comes from uranium traces in the mined rock, where it stays until the rain washes it into the ground water and river systems - making them toxic.

    It is estimated that more than one-and-a-half million people in the country live nearby radioactive mine dumps.

    A few months ago, the local municipality relocated 14 households from Tudor Shaft to another place, further from the dump. Sixty-eight more shacks have been marked for demolition because they are considered too close to the dump.
     
    But for the community, these markings are arbitrary, and most residents do not want to leave. Many say the authorities have no plan to relocate them. Tudor Shaft resident

    “They tell us we are staying in a dangerous place," explained Elisabeth Koji. "But they didn't move us to a proper place. We want a proper distance. We want a road, toilets, electric and water.”

    Many of the residents are also ignorant of the dangers. Children play in the dirt and become covered with the worrisome orange dust. Some pregnant women eat the toxic soil, which is traditionally believed to treat stomach pains.

    Environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, who has been making the situation public for more than a decade, explains the potential health impact.

    "There is a significant concern that there has been no health studies done in order to quantify the health impact upon communities," Liefferink. "It is, however, internationally reported that radioactivity will lead to genetic impacts. Chemical toxicity in uranium can lead to increases of leukemias, chronic kidney diseases and kidney failures."

    Facing increasing pressure, the National Nuclear Regulatory authority came with bulldozers to remove the dump last July. But Liefferink says the community was not consulted, and that it only made the situation worse.

    “We would have preferred that the communities were relocated before the removal of the radioactive waste," added Liefferink. "As the radioactive waste was being removed by bulldozers, it then destroyed the crust on the tailings which meant it liberated the radioactive toxic dust which now poses a risk for the communities because they were both inhalation and ingestion.”

    The action was quickly suspended by a court action launched by Liefferink and the community, which want the problem addressed properly.

    “The relief that we are seeking is the consultation with the communities, the relocation of the communities, a proper risk assessment being done, the proper environmental authorizations must be applied for and must be granted, must be authorized as well as the remediation of the footprint of that area,” said Liefferink.

    The residents of Tudor Shaft are still waiting for the court decision regarding their case. In the meantime, the fence around the dump is still being crossed by people seeking shortcuts and barefoot children using the mine dump as a soccer pitch.

    You May Like

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora