The management and lecturers of the Central Johannesburg College are likely to face off in court over the bosses' refusal to relocate a campus from the Crown Mines area.
Lecturers at the college's Highveld campus, which is surrounded by three mine-residue dumps rich in uranium, have been pushing its management and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to relocate them, claiming their health is being compromised by exposure to the uranium.
The college bosses insist there have been no epidemiological studies linking exposure to uranium to certain ailments.
The lecturers, the college managers, the departments of Labour and of Environmental Affairs, and the Education Labour Relations Council are to meet before the end of the month to seek a solution to the stand-off.
Failure to find a solution, said lecturer Senzeni Marasela, would result in a court action against the college and Nzimande.
"If they don't move us on the 27th [of February] we will write a letter through the Legal Resources Centre. Failure to relocate us will be met by an urgent high court application. That's what we have decided as staff; we are going to court to demand relocation, " she said.
The LRC's Naseema Fakir confirmed that the centre was acting on the lecturers' behalf but declined to comment further.
The forthcoming meeting will be a follow-up to one last week to which the lecturers invited environmental specialists to make presentations to their bosses on the effects of uranium on public health.
Professor Frank Winde, of North West University, in Potchefstroom, who made one of the presentations, said: "The college is surrounded by three major mine dumps that are unvegetated. Without any further research, the location of the college itself is unfortunate and you don't need rocket science to see that their health is surely compromised."
Environmentalist Mariette Liefferink, who also made a presentation, shared his sentiments.
"You don't wait for a person to die to see that an environment is unsafe, you take safety precautions. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that a previously mined area is not appropriate for a college."
The Department of Higher Education's spokesman, Fanie Ngoma, said he hoped the matter would not have to go to court.
"We don't believe this matter will get to that point because it is being given the necessary attention."
He said that, in view of the presentations made by the technical team, the case for relocating the college was "pretty strong".
Last week, The Times reported that most of the lecturers at the college who had become ill exhibited similar symptoms - chronic nasal allergies, allergic rhinitis and infected sinuses - which are associated with the inhalation of dust.