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The “illegal” removal of a mine dump in an informal settlement on the West Rand could cause the liberation of radioactive dust particles which thousands of its residents will unwittingly inhale and ingest.
It is on these grounds that the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) has succeeded in stopping the removal of the mine dump, a “radiological hotspot”, from the Tudor Shaft informal settlement in Krugersdorp. The dump was to have been removed by the end of this week.
Gold tailings contain uranium, which is radioactive and toxic, as well as toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, cobalt, copper, zinc and cadmium, which are known human carcinogens, says Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the FSE.
Last week, the Saturday Star reported how the National Nuclear Regulator, Mogale City and Mintails started to remove the mine dump by the truckload.
But the FSE, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, had obtained an interim interdict in the Johannesburg High Court against the NNR and Mogale City until the court rules on Tuesday.
“We’ll only know then what is going to happen,” said Nkosana Zali of Mogale City.
Liefferink said the FSE welcomed the removal but questioned the process.
“Although the FSE welcomes the mine residue removal, the FSE takes the view that the current operations are illegal in the absence of comprehensive risk assessments (to determine) the risks associated with the movement of radioactive and toxic mine residue and a public participation processes.
“The FSE believes that the mine residue should be removed and disposed of in a responsible manner, in consultation with affected stakeholders and in accordance with the law.”
Liefferink said Tudor Shaft had existed for 16 years on dangerous mining waste.
“After a decade of sustained whistle-blowing, the current operations are illegal in the absence of comprehensive risk assessments,” she said.
Mintails said it would ensure that no dust was inhaled by keeping the mine dump wet as the toxic soil was removed.
“This is not the first mine dump we would be removing. We do this all the time,” said chief executive Jan Jacobs.