Plaatjies, who requires an oxygen machine for up to 16 hours a day to stay alive, is among thousands of Johannesburg residents who suffer from respiratory infections as a result of mining, according to a report released by the Bench Marks Foundation.
“The toxic dust is the truth. My lungs can’t help me to breathe any more. “Our children have eczema and eye problems and they are born with disorders,” Plaatjies told journalists this week. Plaatjies was speaking in Riverlea during the launch of the Bench Marks Foundation report titled Waiting to Inhale, focused on four mine-affected communities, Riverlea, Diepkloof, Meadowlands and Doornkop.
The report found that 56.1percent of Soweto residents had identified sinus, asthma and tuberculosis as their most persistent ailments, with 4percent saying they suffered from eye problems. David van Wyk, lead researcher for Bench Marks, the non-profit, faith-based organisation owned by the churches in South Africa, said the situation was dire due to acid mine drainage.
Van Wyk charged that acid mine drainage was the result of over a century of abusive mining practice which had become a real threat to the wellbeing of residents. “The government should stop putting poor people in an unsafe and unhealthy environment.” He said that acid mine drainage severely degraded water quality, killed aquatic life and made water virtually unusable. “Mining, by its very nature consumes, diverts and can seriously pollute water, air and soil resources.