The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Wednesday, 20 February 2019 01:00

The devastating impact of Gold Mining in South Africa

Gold Mine Johannesburg Gold Mine Johannesburg.

For 130 years South Africa has been exploiting its gold resources in Johannesburg. But at what cost?

278 abandoned mines and 200 mining dumps, that contain about 6 billion tons of waste, exist in Johannesburg. For every single gram of gold extracted, 200 kg of waste are produced.

Inside the city, hills composed of sand debris arise. At first sight, those tall hills appear as part of the natural landscape, however, they are piles of waste produced from the lasting gold mining process.

Unfortunately, those piles of rubble contain radioactive waste and heavy metals (e.g. arsenic and lead). Wind can easily transfer the harmful substances to nearby houses contaminating the residential area of the city where more than 1.5 million people live.

The effects of dust on people include severe coughing and vomiting while some children have been diagnosed with neurological disorders. Moreover, about 10-13% 13-to-14-year old children who live near the dumps suffer from asthma. Local people said that contamination cannot be prevented. Even water used for irrigation is contaminated.

"The dust itself gets into our food. We eat this dust, we drink this dust, so that is why so many people are sick here. This is a silent killer," Tiny Dlamini, an activist and resident of a community within Dobonsville township, stated.

An investigation conducted by North-West University in South Africa in 2013 showed that Johannesburg contains about 600,000 tons of uranium. "What I find particularly scandalous is to take the worst possible material, which is uranium, grind it into dust comparable to flour and make a hill out of it, and put it into a place where people live. That is a colossally bad idea," said geologist Igor Klopcic who resigned his occupation after 20 years in mining industry.


Read 320 times Last modified on Wednesday, 20 February 2019 15:58

The News Center is being funded by our Annual Corporate Sponsors " (learn more):