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Residents use radioactive mud as an acne cure

Written by  Sheree Bega Sunday, 27 November 2011 05:32
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Experts warn old mine dumps could cause birth defects and brain disorders

Patience Mjadu can't bear the pimples that dot her face. So, like other women in her impoverished informal settlement, she has resorted to a novel but potentially dangerous form of treatment involving toxic and radioactive mining waste.

 

"I've heard that it really works to cure pimples and other people in my area are using it," explains Mjadu, an unemployed mother of four, her face smeared with the yellow sludge. "I don't think it can be bad for me."

Mjadu lives in Tudor Shaft a declared radiological hotspot perched on a radioactive mine dump in Krugersdorp. But she and her neighbours should no longer be there.

In an unprecedented move earlier this year, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) recommended that Mogale City municipality relocate the thousands of residents of Tudor Shaft after it found elevated levels of radiation in the settlement could lead to a "potentially hazardous situation."

Earlier this month, the NNR told Parliament that it had taken regulatory decisions on residential developments that pose an immediate risk to the public. "The NNR exercised its mandate in protecting residents of Tudor Shaft."

Mogale City maintains it has moved close to 200 families from Tudor Shaft and its neighbouring informal settlements and that it is working with the NNR to rehabilitate Tudor Shaft. NNR spokesman Gino Moonsamy claims over 500 people have been moved.

But residents like Jeffrey Ramorute say this is untrue. "Only around eight shacks, with about 35 families, were moved from this site" says the community leader, pointing to a yellow outcrop of mine sludge, where Professor Chris Busby, a world expert in uranium, in December found radiation levels inside a shack 15 times higher than regulatory limits. "These people are lying if they say they've moved everybody. We're still here, living in poor conditions."

But a new government report believes the NNR ruling is "likely ...to be relevant for a number of other sites" and high-risks informal settlements will need to be moved to minimize human health risks.

"The unfortunate case involving the NNR-enforced relocation of the Tudor Shaft illustrates there are powerful scientific arguments for preventing human settlement in or close to these mine residue areas (MRAs) until toxic and radiogenic materials have been completely removed, the area radiometrically surveyed and monitored until cleared for safety by the NNR', states the final draft of the report, written by water scientist Anthony Turton, and commissioned by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Hundreds of shacks, and thousands of people, remain in Tudor Shaft. "Look there" says dismayed Mariette Liefferink, an environmental activist, as she gestures to a group of children playing on the site where Busby took his radioactivity readings.

"Children continue to play on that site (where the shacks were removed)," says Liefferink. "Many are barefoot. What has happened here is not sufficient. People are still living on the tailings, on unsafe land... It's a really desperate situation."

Residents of Tudor Shaft are exposed to high concentrations of heavy metals which are carcinogens, as well as radioactive uranium which also leaves them vulnerable to birth defects and brain disorders.

Their plight is mirrored in the other mining catchments of the Witwatersrand, where waterways are polluted and radiological hazards linger - the legacy of 130 years of mining activity in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area.

The GDARD report, completed in July but ostensibly being kept under wraps, declares that the 380 mine dumps and slimes dams in Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination. There are other risks too of ground instability and collapse above abandoned mine workings.

High density residential areas, together with household food gardens in close proximity to MRAs expose the poorer sector of the population to grave health risks, says the report, Feasibility Study on Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes: Phase II Strategy and Implementation Plan.

The report identifies inadequate monitoring of MRAs and states that local and provincial government or individual officials within specific departments can be held responsible for failings in their duty of care, considering the impact of MRAs on the environment and on human health. It urges that "universities and nuclear physicists, must be pulled in and researchers attracted to the field", and calls for an "integrated epidemiological approach to all aspects of MRA related or induced conditions."

But it envirsions rehabilitating and redeveloping MRAs as "new eco-tourism" destinations in recognition of the beneficial economic role that mining has played.

Liefferink hopes the MRAs that blight Gauteng will be rehabilitated. But in the polluted Wonderfonteinspruit catchment, little has been done, other than "cosmetic changes" that have failed to address widespread contamination. "Not even the basic issues have been addressed. There are spillages of radioactive material that are never cleaned up," she says.

"We're all talking about COP17, and the impacts of climate change, but we're perpetuating groundwater and surface water contamination...."

"We're all talking about COP17, and the impacts of climate change, but we're perpetuating groundwater and surface water contamination...."

MINING

FSE COMMENTS - Millsite Tailings Storage Facility Reclamation Project

Comments on the Millsite Tailings Storage Facility Reclamation Project: Wetland Sensitivity Mapping and Impact Assessment Freshwater Resource Assessment in the Vicinity of the Proposed Lindum Railway Decommissioning Freshwater Resource Assessment in the Vicinity of the Proposed Millsite Reclamation Surface Water Assessment Report Groundwater Assessment Report Integrated Water Use Licence Application for the Sibanye-Stillwater Rand Uranium/Cooke Operations Integrated Water and Waste Management Plan in support of the WULA   The following comments are submitted on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE). The FSE is a federation of community based civil society organisations committed to the realisation of the constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and to having the environment sustainably managed and protected for future generations. Their mission is specifically focussed on addressing the adverse impacts of mining and industrial activities on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who live and work near South Africa’s mines and industries.  

Presentations at the conference "Sustainable Use of Abandoned Mines in the SADC Region"

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Palmietkuilen Coal Mining Project Rejected

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SA NEWS

Battle to save Marico's river

De Beers has secured rights to prospect for kimberlite in the sensitive catchment of Groot Marico, but residents worry that minim firms could damage their pristine river, writes Sheree Bega

Saturday Star - No holds barred in draft National Master Plan for Water

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THE IMPACT OF MINING ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMY AND LIVING STANDARDS

  POLITICS WEB MINING AND PEOPLE: THE IMPACT OF MINING ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMY AND LIVING STANDARDS INTRODUCTION AND SYNOPSIS There are two ways of looking at mining in South Africa. The first is to see it as a sunset industry plagued by rising costs, technical difficulties, and political hostility. The second is to see it as an industry well positioned for a new lease of life despite all the vicissitudes. Even though the attractiveness of South Africa for mining investment has declined, the country still has the world's richest reserves of precious minerals and base metals. Companies both large and small would like to exploit these. Some are doing so despite the political threats. Even more will do so if the threats can be effectively managed or reduced. According to the Chamber of Mines, investment over the next few years could almost double in the absence of threats.

FSE’s Preliminary Comments on the Minister of Water and Sanitation’s decision to consolidate the 9 Catchment Management Agencies into one Catchment Management Agency.

  (Reg. No. 2007/003002/08) NPO NUMBER 062986-NPO PBO No. (TAX EXEMPT) 930 039 506 Postnet Suite 87 Private Bag X033 RIVONIA 2128   COMMENTS ON THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND SANITATION’S DECISION TO IMPLEMENT A SINGLE CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT AGENCY (CMA) TO PERFORM WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION IN THE NINE WATER MANAGEMENT AREAS.  The following comments are submitted on behalf of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) is a federation of community based civil society organisations committed to the realisation of the constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and to having the environment sustainably managed and protected for future generations. The FSE’s mission is specifically focussed on addressing the adverse impacts of mining and industrial activities on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who live and work near South Africa’s mines and industries.  

WATER

SUBMISSION ON THE DWS MASTER PLAN

WRITTEN SUBMISSION ON THE DRAFT 2.6: NATIONAL WATER AND SANITATION MASTER PLAN (NW&SMP)  In this document, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (“FSE”) submits comments on the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, draft 2.6 (the “draft plan”).  THE FSE:  The FSE is a federation of community based civil society organisations committed to the realisation of the constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and to having the environment sustainably managed and protected for future generations. Their mission is specifically focussed on addressing the adverse impacts of mining and industrial activities on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who live and work near South Africa’s mines and industries.    In accordance with the above-mentioned mission, the FSE’s comments are limited to matters pertaining to the mining industry. The FSE’s comments will be substantiated by real examples within the scope of the FSE’s experience and our active participation in a significant number of environmental impacts assessments, environmental management programme reports, water use license applications, environmental authorisations, steering committees, forums, task teams, teams of experts, academic research groups, boards, etc. over a period of 15 (fifteen years).[1] [1] Kindly note that the Legal Resources Centre assisted with this publication.

Coalition defending Mpumalanga water source area

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