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Thu Dec 08 18:04:33 CAT 2016

Gupta-owned mine accused of environmental pollution

TMG Digital | 2016-03-17 17:57:08.0
Inside Shiva Uranium, in Haarteesfontien, North West, which is the largest Uranium Development currently in South Africa.
Image by: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The Dominionville community in Klerksdorp in North West is suffering from an increase in respiratory diseases allegedly caused by dust from the tailings dams at the Shiva Uranium mine which is effectively owned by the Gupta family‚ Bench Marks Foundation’s community monitors claimed on Thursday.

According to the monitors‚ the mine‚ in which they say the Guptas own a 74% stake through Oakbay Resources (the family owns 64% of Oakbay‚ in which Duduzane Zuma‚ President Jacob Zuma’s son‚ also has a stake)‚ does not seem to regard the tailings dams as a danger.

They charged that no action had been taken toward minimising the damage to the community.

Tailings dams consist of water contaminated with acid‚ unwanted minerals and leftover uranium and comprise most of the radioactive properties associated with mining this resource. The sludge in a tailings dam continues to release radon‚ a radioactive‚ colourless‚ odourless and tasteless noble gas that occurs naturally as a decay product of radium. Dust on tailings dams contains these radioactive constituents and radon gas.

“We are continuously breathing in this radioactive dust‚” said Tshepo Mmusi‚ community monitor for the Bench Marks Foundation.

“This dust is everywhere‚ it’s on our clothes‚ on the surfaces in our homes and settles on our food‚ which we can’t even clean properly because we have no water.”

In addition to the increase in respiratory diseases‚ the monitors say they have recorded a severe reduction in water supply to the community which has resulted in a school closing down and children having to travel 40 kilometres to the next school. Uranium mining uses copious amounts of water.

“In a move to absolve it from liability or actions‚ the mine is pushing for the community to relocate by claiming that the area is highly radioactive and is not suitable for human settlement. But the nearby white community has not been pushed into doing so‚” the Bench Marks Foundation said in a statement.

It added that community members together with the Bench Marks community monitors and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission had called for the local government to address the challenges the community was experiencing and had made it clear that they did not want to relocate but wanted Shiva Uranium to take responsibility for its actions and clean up the environment.

“Relocation would mean taking the community away from their cultural heritage and forcing them to leave their ancestor’s graves. Information has not been forthcoming as to where they will be relocated to and whether the community will be any better off than they are now.”

Said Mmusi: “Why should we leave our home because the mine shirks its legal responsibility? Our lives are here. Our ancestors are buried here.”

Community members of towns such as Dominionville are trained by the Bench Marks Foundation to monitor private corporations‚ such as mines and government‚ to ensure that they are acting in an accountable and socially responsible way and to share their findings through community meetings‚ blogging and other social media tools. The monitors form groups which work together to submit grievances and memoranda of demands to companies and governments on behalf of communities.

The Bench Marks Foundation is an organisation that monitors multinational corporations to ensure that they meet minimum social‚ environmental and economic standards and promotes an ethical and critical voice on what constitutes corporate social responsibility.

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