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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid