The windy season brings numerous community complaints for gold mining companies situated in the Witwatersrand due to windblown dust from partially rehabilitated tailings storage facilities (TSFs). For communities encroaching onto TSFs, windblown dust is perceived as a health hazard and an environmental challenge. In a study conducted in 2017 by the Lawyers for Human Rights, the community of a gold mine village perceived tailings storage facility 6 (TSF6) and other surrounding tailings storage facilities which are partially rehabilitated to be a health and socio-economic threat. Since 2013, when a nearby gold mining company was liquidated, this community has been complaining about dust fallout. To validate the claims made by the community this paper reports on the dust deposition impacts, and respiratory illnesses risk posed by wind-blown generated dust. The study conducts an air quality assessment using dispersion modelling of windblown dust. Surface material from the TSFs was sampled, analysed for silica and heavy metal content using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) respectively. This study finds that PM10 dust fallout, high in silica and uranium content, could potentially pose health threats to the surrounding community. The study further shows that dust deposition is the highest in July–October, with TSF6 posing a nuisance while TSF1 represents a potential health threat owing to its particle size distribution for the surrounding gold mine village community. Potential receptors of the air pollution by dust in this study area include neighbouring property owners, business owners of the nearby shopping centre, the school and the clinic. This study further finds that sudden mine closure due to mine liquidation results in unrehabilitated tailings storage facilities which exacerbates dust deposition.
Mpanza, M., Adam, E., & Moolla, R. (2020). Dust deposition impacts at a liquidated gold mine village: Gauteng province in South Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(14), 4929.