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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More