SA hasn't protected residents from gold mine pollution: Harvard report

Written by  Tanisha Heiberg Thursday, 13 October 2016 09:13
Rate this item
(0 votes)

JOHANNESBURG South Africa has failed to protect residents affected by pollution from contaminated water and mine dumps over more than 130 years of gold mining near Johannesburg, an independent investigation by the Harvard Law School said.

Its International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) said successive governments including the current administration had not complied with international law, reacting too slowly and doing too little to reduce the harm from abandoned and active mines near the "City of Gold".

The report said the government gave only limited warnings of the risks, did not perform enough scientific studies on the health effects, and rarely engaged with residents. 

The Department of Environmental Affairs could not immediately comment on the findings of the Harvard report. 

Pollution of ground and surface water from acid mine drainage and contaminated dust and soil from mine dumps have exposed residents living around the mines and on the waste dumps to high concentrations of heavy metals and radiation "that can contribute to immediate and long-term medical problems ranging from asthma and skin rashes to cancer and organ damage," the report said.

It added: "The government's response to the crisis has been insufficient and unacceptably slow" and piecemeal, falling short of its duties under human rights law.

The South African Chamber of Mines, which groups several mining companies in Africa's most industrialized country, said it could not comment because it had not read the report yet. 

"The Chamber was not approached to provide input by the authors prior to or post the publication of the document," said the Chamber of Mines. 

South Africa's government said it had set aside an estimated 1.2 billion rand ($87 million) in 2011 to clean up acidic water threatening to spill out from abandoned gold mines under Johannesburg.

In May, South Africa gave the go-ahead for class action suits seeking damages from gold companies for up to half a million miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis.

Some local environmentalists supported the IHRC report. 

"There is often a systemic failure on their part to enforce the legislation," said CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, Mariette Liefferink, endorsing recommendations to minimize further risks and remedy current harm caused by contamination. 

(Editing by James Macharia/Ruth Pitchford)

 

MINING

Open-cast· coal mine a threat to Springs wetland

WITH hands covered with liver spots, Stan Madden points out the expanse of Aston Lake glimmering  in  the  distance Fields of near-ripened meal­ies and clusters of soya beans stretch across this fertile, wet­land-sodden landscape on the outskirts of Springs

Tough times for S.Africa town blighted by mine closure

The closure of the mine at Blyvooruitzicht, which sat on one of South Africa's r...

R60 Billion held for mines that are never closed

Never-before-seen data shows a fortune has been set aside for mine rehabilitatio...

SA NEWS

Nuwe myn ‘sal duisende hul huise kos’

Byna 10 000 mense sal verskuif moet word as Anglo Operations Ltd en Canyon Coal hul sin kry om ’n massiewe oopgroefsteenkoolmyn oos van Springs te begin.

SA coal mines leave legacy of ruin

Johannesburg - A 19-month data investigation of mine closures indicates that since at least 2011 no large coal mines operating in South Africa have been granted closure.

Besoedelingklagte: Mynbase daag nie by hof op

Drie direkteure van die Blyvooruitzicht- en Village Main Reef-goudmyn buite ­Carletonville kan ’n boete van tot R10 miljoen of tien jaar tronkstraf opgelê word weens die beweerde besoedeling en agteruitgang van die omgewing.

LLM/MPhil in Environmental Law Programme launched

  The Department of Public Law at the University of Pretoria hosted a launch of its LLM and MPhil programmes in Environmental Law, coordinated by Ms Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Administrative Law, in February 2017.

WATER

Eastern Basin acid water plant is "sledgehammer"

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has used a "sledgehammer" for its R1bn treatment plant for acid mine drainage (AMD) on the Eastern mining basin that could ultimately create more toxic water.  This is the view of water strategy and consulting mining hydrologist Kym Morton, who believes government is "wasting money" by pumping large volumes of water and adding lime that makes it alkaline but still toxic and hazardous. 

SABC Health Talk, Environmental Health: 25 February 2017

Focus on preventing illness rather than incurring the expense of treatment....

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green be...