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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid