Published: Monday 31 August 1998

Babies born in the Krugersdorp area could suffer severe lung damage or even die because of dust pollution from a nearby mine dump, says Vali Yousefi, spokesperson of National Department of Occupational Health (NDOH).

According to Yousefi, the high quartz content in dust from a slimes dam in Kagiso Extension-8 causes silicosis, hardening lung cells and rendering malfunction of the lungs. The disease can prove fatal in babies, the elderly, and those prone to respiratory diseases. Hospitals in the area are reported to have witnessed an increasing number of patients with respiratory complaints.

Most of the dust pollution in Krugersdorp comes from an old mine dump being reworked by the West Wits Gold Mine. Until recently it was the biggest dump in the world, with between 10 and 15 million tonnes of sand. Originally covered in grass, the mining has denuded the dump. "We will work with the hospitals in a bid to find the cause. By collecting the details of where people live and where they work we should be able to pinpoint problems," government officials say.

AdriaanAucanip,spokesperson on mine rehabilitation at the department of mineral and energy affairs, said the dust problem in Krugersdorp had only recently been brought to his attention. "We rely on the chamber of mines for pollution figures, which is obviously not ideal, but my department has no money for the equipment," he says.

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