Nuclear News

Women's toxic secret to beauty found in the earth

Written by  Sunday, 17 February 2013 11:55
Rate this item
(0 votes)

FACIAL TREATMENT:  Patience Mjadu, 44 inside her shack in Tudor Shaft informal settlement, with her face smeared with toxic soil from mining waste mixed with skin lotion and water. Mjadu believes the soil helps with her pimples and protects her face from the sun.

The secret to Patience Mjadu’s beauty is in the bottle of Gentle Magic skin lotion she holds in her hands. It’s no ordinary skin cream though – but rather a mixture of toxic and radioactive mine waste and water that the grandmother smears on her face every day.
Mjadu swears by it. “It’s for a long time that I’ve been using this cream and I think it helps me a lot”, she says, dabbing the concoction on her face in her immaculately kept shack in Tudor Shaft, an informal settlement on the edge of Krugersdorp.
She collects the mine tailings from a yellow outcrop of mine sludge in Tudor Shaft where radiation levels have been measured at 15 times higher than regulatory limits, but she has never heard of radiation.
“I first saw other women in Tudor Shaft take the orange sand and use it for their skin problems. If I don’t have lotion, then I just mix the sand with water.”
The impoverished residents of Tudor shaft, named after an abandoned mine, are exposed to high concentrations of cancer-causing heavy metals as well as radioactive uranium, which could leave them susceptible to birth defects and brain disorders, according to Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment.
A year ago, it was largely because of her activism that the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), in an unprecedented move, urged Mogale City to relocate Tudor Shaft. It moved around 24 families living on the outcrop but uncertainty persists about the fate of the thousands of residents that remain, and the potential health risks.
“It’s inconceivable that anyone would say mine tailings are benign or innocent”, says Liefferink, who believes work needs to be done to educate communities about the hazards of mining waste. “We all know it contains heavy metals, which are part of the processing process, that there are elevated levels of cadmium, cobalt, copper, zinc and uranium”.
The heavily pregnant Constance Makoloi, 19, stands in the maze of shacks that make up Tudor Shaft, and tells how she started eating the “cakes” made of tailings material after she fell pregnant with her first child four years ago. “I like them”, she says, in broken English. “I thank they are good for me.”
Stephan du Toit, a senior environmental protection officer at Mogale City, says it is doing all it can. “Suddenly if the municipality heard we must relocate 5 000 people, the first question we must ask is: where is the land. This (Tudor Shaft) is a legacy, which the municipality did not create but inherited.
“How are we going to determine what the radiation levels are, how to rehabilitate a mine or rework a slimes dam? “We’re uninformed as to the levels and conditions unsafe for the community and whether these conditions prevail. We want to clarify this in a meeting with the NNR but they always postpone.
NNR spokesman Gino Moonsamy disputes Du Toit’s claims. “We’ve been taking effort to try to engage with Mogale and trying to set up meetings for the last month and a half, but it is virtually impossible to agree on a meeting date”, he says, adding that women ingesting tailings or using them as skin lotion should be “tested for contamination.”\A recent Gauteng government report has found the 380 mine dumps and slimes dams that blight Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination, and other risks of ground instability.
The problem, says Liefferink, is that if the government sets a precedent as it has done with Tudor Shaft, it will have to move 1.6 million people living on toxic slimes dams or alongside tailings dams. These are, in the main, communities already battling HIV/Aids and malnutrition.
“We’re dealing here, not with a Hiroshima, but rather it’s a slow-onset disaster. No one will fall down dead immediately but the long-term exposure even to low-dose radiation may have severe health impacts.
“Radioactivity is difficult to explain. No one can see it.”

NNR report urges immediate action

The NNR’s Surveillance Report of the Upper Wonderfonteinspruit Catchment Area found that the thousands of residents of Tudor Shaft are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of radiation.
Ionising radiation is measured in units known as Sieverts. The report, which has been revised following criticism that its mathematical calculations are flawed, notes that “special emphasis” must be placed on the potential dose of 3.9 millisieverts a year (mSv/annum) calculated for exposure in Tudor Shaft. It used a public dose limit of 1mSv/annum.
“In terms of the NNR criteria, the elevated levels could lead to a hazardous situation and therefore requires immediate action to reduce dose levels and also to create awareness among informal dwellers of the radiological hazards that could arise from the current situation,” says the report.
Tudor Shaft is littered with mine residue and open shafts.
“When it rains, tailings dissolve and it enters the water”, says activist Mariette Liefferink. “Children play on these mine tailings. I don’t think anyone can disagree that this community is at risk.”

MINING

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West Rand gold fields and Sibanye Gold’s operations. 

Mine Shafts: Accidents waiting to happen

  Eighty-two shafts without warning signs.  Twenty-two open shafts.  Three wate...

Residents left in the dark over AMD treatment

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been accused of “authorising po...

SA NEWS

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.

Truth of the dust that brings death

  A new hard-hitting report from Harvard Law School details how South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations concerning gold mining in and around Joburg. Bonnie Docherty, who led the research, spoke to Sheree Bega

Harvard Report: The Cost of Gold

A report has been published by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic titled "The Cost of Gold: Environmental, Health, and Human Rights Consequences of Gold Mining in South Africa’s West and Central Rand.   The reports states, "The complex web of responsible government agencies and repeated legislative changes to that organizational structure have impeded the development of a coordinated plan to deal with the negative effects of mining. The limited scope of action, inadequate attention to at-risk communities, and insufficient consideration of environmental concerns have undermined the completeness of any response."

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

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.

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...