In Johannesburg, tens of thousands of South Africans live at the foot of mountains of mining waste, a remnant of gold mining that has enriched the country, but now threatens the health of residents .
“Look at the state of my spinach field, this yellow sand right there, it destroys everything,” says 50-year-old Thabo Ngubane, who has been farming since 1990 at the foot of a poisonous slag at Snake Park,north of Soweto.
The gold fever that gripped the region from 1886 left behind mountains of earth or debris, most of them stuffed with dangerous materials.
This is a mine area, we do not want to be in the world, but who do you talk to now? Nobody wants to be responsible for this mess Nobody.
More than 200 of these heavy-metal-contaminated hills, including uranium, have grown around Johannesburg, according to a study by the International Clinic for Human Rights at the United State’s Harvard University.
“On rainy days, the mountain water pours into my field . This month, 22 of my piglets died, probably because of the mine.“We clean the house four, five times a day, sometimes we do not even clean, we sleep there and we inhale this dust, it kills us’‘, Ngubane said.
When this waste comes into contact with water, oxidation produces an extremely dangerous acidic mineral solution.
During apartheid, thousands of South Africans, like Rose, were relocated to townships near the mines.
‘‘This is a mine area, we do not want to be in the world, but who do you talk to now? Nobody wants to be responsible for this mess Nobody’‘,Rose Plaatjies,a retiree stated.
Inhabitants accuse the government and the mining companies of not taking adequate action against pollution. Cough, asthma and eczema are common diseases in this area. Children play in dumps and bathe in toxic ponds.
Angela Mathee ,head of the medical research council of South Africa is deeply concerned.
‘‘In both children and adults we see the highest levels of lead within 500 meters of the mine, and they leave 2 or 3 kilometers away’‘,Angela said.
The researchers proved that the rate of respiratory and cardiac diseases is higher in this area.
Many other districts of Soweto, a township of one and a half million inhabitants, are also victims of the heavy mining heritage of the largest city in the country.