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Rich mining legacy is poisonous future in parts of South Africa

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 01:58

Waste from South African mines dug more than a century ago, stretching along one of the world's largest gold deposits, has left communities exposed to radiation, contaminated dust and water that can contribute to life threatening health conditions like TB and cancer. Stuart McDill reports.

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South Africa's Gauteng Province profited from the spoils of more than a century of gold mining. But now its residents are paying the price - with their health. Around two thousand people live here surrounded by contaminated mine dumps - among them Janette, herself diagnosed with TB - the disease that killed her mother. SOUNDBITE (English) JANETTE MATSHWISA, TUDOR SHAFT RESIDENT, SAYING: "My mother is dead because of this place. She died in 2007. She was diagnosed with TB also. Then they told me that the dust is inside her lungs then she passed away." Researchers say Tudor Shaft, on the outskirts of Krugersdorp is exposed to acid mine drainage, contaminated dust and radiation. SOUNDBITE (English) MARIETTE LIEFFERINK, FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, SAYING: "This Community has been exposed for decades, more than a decade to the dust fallout from the tailing storage facilities, the physical risks from open cast mining and blasting, as well as the staying on contaminated land. Some also grew their vegetables on contaminated soil. There is Radon exposure. There is both inhalation and ingestion of radioactive dust." Government efforts to clean up the area has been criticised as too little and too slow. SOUNDBITE (English) NATIONAL NUCLEAR REGULATOR / ORION PHILLIPS, SAYING: "I do realize that there has… some time has elapsed. However, in our planning for this year, we've prioritized the cleanup operations to oversee the cleanup operations for the next two to three years." Mining companies are resisting a plan to charge them for cleaing up contaminated water sources. They say the cost would put an already ailing industry under further financial strain.

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Rich mining legacy is poisonous future in parts of South Africa

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 01:58