JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Gold producer DRDGold on Tuesday expressed disappointment that the Bench Marks Foundation (BMF) had not engaged with the company when compiling its latest report ‘Waiting to Inhale’.
The report found that communities living near Johannesburg’s mine dumps are at greater risk of respiratory illnesses than those of the city’s northern suburbs.
The report focusses on the communities of Riverlea, Diepkloof, Meadowlands and Doornkop, all of which are situated close to one of the most intensely mined areas in the world.
It suggests, among other things, that all mine dumps should be fenced and signposted and notes that wind-blown dust frequently exceeds limits and that dust buckets are not the most modern, effective way of measuring dust fall-out.
“The research found that many residents of Riverlea, for example, are living on oxygen machines. The residents believe that dust from the nearby Mooifontein mine dump is contributing to the poor air quality that they experience, especially on windy days,” BMF said in a statement.
BMF, however, said it would require a proper epidemiological study to determine a direct correlation between tailings dust and respiratory problems in these communities, such as blood tests, to determine the presence or otherwise of toxic substances that might also be present in the mine waste.
“Unfortunately, we do not have capacity of technology to carry out such a study,” it noted.
DRDGold said it was concerned by the lack of independent, credible research in support of the allegations levelled by the BMF against DRDGold’s operating footprint and the effect it has on surrounding communities.
The gold producer said its aim was to improve the quality of life of those living within its areas of influence.
“This means that, in addition to investments we make in social and economic capital, we seek to preserve, protect and even improve the state of the footprint on which we operate to also yield a nature dividend.”
The company noted that every mine dump had either been fenced off or signposts were clearly displayed.
In response to the BMF’s allegation that windblown dust frequently exceeds limits, DRDGold said its operations were well contained and posed no health risk and negligible public nuisance.
“Our progress in reducing dust is directly attributable to the success of our systematic vegetation programme. In six years, we have vegetated a total of 244 ha at the Crown Tailings Complex and expect to complete the programme by 2022.
The gold producer added that it had rehabilitated and vegetated dumps at a cost of hundreds of millions of rands in the last ten years, which has brought about a very significant decline in dust emissions from these dumps.