"NO SAFE DOSE OF RADIATION"
- NUCLEAR AUTHORITIES (1982)
by G. Edwards
In November 1981 , two atomic workers at Chalk River, Ontario, were granted full pensions because of cancers which they had contracted as a result of radiation exposure on the job. "We acknowledge that it was probable that their cancers were caused by working here," said a statement issued by Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, despite the fact that neither of the men had ever been over-exposed to radiation.
Thomas Arnold was awarded a pension of $1335 a month by the Ontario Workman's Compensation Board (WCB), on the advice of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). Arnold credits AECL with doing all the work to get him the pension. He developed lymph cancer during his 28 years of work as a reactor maintenance man at Chalk River.
The other case involves a 31-year veteran of Chalk River who died of leukemia shortly before the WCB granted his compensation. His widow was awarded $490 a month for life, the maximum permitted under WCB rules. A spokesman for the WCB said there is a third claim pending from Chalk River over a case of skin cancer. Meanwhile, a 50 year-old Pembroke man has also filed a claim with the WCB . Raymond Paplinskie, who has lost an eye and most of the skin on one side of his face, says that he got cancer of the sinuses from doing nuclear cleanup work following a 1958 reactor accident at Chalk River.
AECL spokesman Hal Tracy explained that the nuclear industry in Canada accepts the theory that there is no safe threshold limit for radiation exposure; hence, it must also be accepted that any dose at all has the potential for harm, and that eventually there will be some evidence of this harm. "Possibly there will be more cancers among our workers," said Mr. Tracy. "These first cases weren't a total surprise. Deaths due to radiation exposure had been predicted. We've always believed there was an increased risk."
Robert Potvin, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), which regulates the Canadian nuclear industry, said that the two cases of compensation have "no implications" form the safety standpoint. They "simply confirm the long-standing expectation" that nuclear workers run a higher-than-usual risk of cancer due to years of exposure to low-level radiation, he said.
"Our limits admit that any dose can increase the risk and, on that premise, cancer deaths are not unexpected." He added that "studies say the average risk under these limits is comparable to the risk in an industry with a high safety standard -- for example, manufacturing shoes."
A spokesman for Ontario Hydro, Richard Furness, said in an interview with the Toronto Star that "no one has ever died or suffered lost-time injuries due to radiation at a Hydro nuclear plant -- or any other Canadian nuclear facility." When told about the AECL acknowledgement of two cases at Chalk River, Furness remarked: "Oh. Well, there goes that record."
Ontario Hydro's Health and Safety Director Bob Wilson said it was time the public recognized the facts. For every hundred million hours of work done under radiation exposure (at no more than the permissible limits) about 2 to 4 otherwise unexpected cancer cases will develop, Wilson said. "We have never said a radiation worker is without risk," he insisted, but added that radiation workers are 10 to 100 times less likely to die from work than such people as fishermen, forestry workers, miners or even Hydro linemen.
But a well-informed AECL worker told the Toronto Star that "this is going to open an intense debate about safety. What can we expect from all the other live or dead cancer victims who have long-term low-level radiation exposure at AECL or Ontario Hydro? It could mean that the whole system of predictions that five rems of radiation was an acceptable dose for workers is dead wrong."
Critics of the nuclear industry have argued that the industry's predictions could prove fatally wrong for many more workers than anticipated. It can take 20 years or more for cancers to develop from low-level long-term radiation exposure, and at least 250 Hydro workers and about the same number at AECL are coming up for the 20-year turning point.
In fact, a special report on the medical effects of alpha radiation published by the AECB in September 1982 indicates that the present permissible exposure limits could result in a quadrupling of the risk of lung cancer deaths among uranium miners, whether they smoke or not. This conclusion is based on actual mortality figures among uranium miners from Colorado, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Canada, and elsewhere.
Canadian Occupational Health and Safety News, v.5, n.10, March 15, 1982.
Canadian Environmental Law Association Newsletter, 1982.
Toronto Star, March 4, 5, 6, 7, 1982.
Globe and Mail, March 5, 11, 1982.
Risk Estimates for the Health Effects of Alpha Radiation, INFO-0081, AECB, Sept. 1982.
Uranium Free South Africa
Mining companies under encouragement by the South African Government now want to mine Uranium on a vast scale all around South Africa. 120 years of Uranium pollution due to Gold Mining Activities has never been cleaned up ... what will make this any different?
Saturday, May 10, 2008
published by WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor on May 16, 2003
U.S.: strontium-90 in baby teeth near Florida reactors
A study on childhood cancer near nuclear power plants in Florida, U.S., was released in April. According to the study by the Radiation and Public Health Project, levels of fission product strontium-90 in the teeth of children living in southeast Florida had increased with 37% from 1986-1989 to 1994-1997. The highest levels were found near the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. The amount of radioactive strontium-90 appeared to be 85% higher in the teeth of children with cancer than those without. The results might suggest a link between cancer and exposures to radioactivity from the reactors, but further studies are still needed to confirm this.
(587.5518) WISE Amsterdam - The study was conducted by the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) and funded by the Health Foundation of South Florida. RHPH is an independent non-profit research organization, established by scientists and physicians to investigate the links between environmental radiation, cancer and public health. The main authors of the study are Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Professor Emiritus Radiation Physics of the Unversity of Pittsburgh, Dr. Jerry Brown, Founding Professor Florida International University and Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of RPHP.
Four nuclear reactors are in operation in southeast Florida: Turkey Point-3 and -4 in Miami-Dade County and St. Lucie-1 and -2 in St. Lucie County. Concerns have been raised about reported increases in childhood cancer. RPHP studied data on radioactive releases from the plants, radioactivity concentrations in rain- and drinking water, cancer rates in the region and levels of strontium-90 in baby's teeth in the region. The main findings of the RPHP study are:
Radioactivity in Miami-Dade County (Turkey Point) rainwater rose from a minimum in 1987-1988 to a plateau in 1990-1993, and later by some 60% in the last half of the 1990s. Atmospheric bomb testing by the U.S. ended in 1963 and by other countries in 1980. Accidental releases by underground bomb testing ended in 1992-1993. The releases by these test were an important source of beta-emitting radionuclides. As the activity in water still increased in the late 1990s, the persistence of (high beta) radioactivity in precipitation and drinking water near Turkey Point and St. Lucie therefore is likely to be caused by those two NPPs.
Radioactivity in drinking water
The highest levels of fission product strontium-90 in drinking water in southeast Florida were found within 5-20 miles (8-32 kilometers) of the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. Fission products like strontium-90, cesium-137 and iodine-131 are always released during normal operation of a reactor. The are released by the plant by air or water discharges. The levels of strontium-90 decreased with distance from the plants. This appears to rule out past nuclear bomb tests as the source of strontium-90 in drinking water. Contamination by nuclear tests would have caused equal activity levels all over Florida instead of the highest levels found near the two NPPs.
Cancer rates in Southeast Florida
From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, cancer incidence in children under 10 rose 35.2% in the five counties closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. Childhood cancer in the whole U.S. had only risen with 10.8%. So, the amount of childhood cancer rose more quickly in the regions of the two NPPs. A high amount of 325.3% increase in childhood cancer was observed in St. Lucie County.
Radioactivity in Florida Baby Teeth
The authors collected baby teeth for measurements on strontium-90 concentrations. The study found that levels of strontium-90 in 250 Miami-Dade County baby teeth have been rising since the early 1980s. The current level is even as high as in the late 1950s, when the U.S., U.K., and the Soviet Union conducted atmospheric bomb tests. As the major releases of strontium-90 have ended since the atmospheric tests stopped, the authors suspect another cause for the (increased) presence of strontium-90 in teeth.
A comparison of the 461 baby teeth from six southeast counties near the two NPPs with 24 teeth from 12 other Florida counties (more than 40 miles from any NPP) showed that strontium-90 levels in the six southeast counties have a significant 44% higher concentration of strontium-90.
In 1982, the average concentration of strontium-90 in southeast Florida baby teeth was 2.23 picoCuries per gram Calcium. By 1995, it reached 5.29 picoCurie/g Calcium. That significant rise of +137% makes it almost impossible to ascribe the current levels to past atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. That is because of the fact that one would expect a decline in strontium-90 levels as the atmospheric tests had ended and strontium-90 from that cause is more and more disappearing from the natural environment.
From 17 teeth from children diagnosed with cancer and living in the counties near the NPPs, 14 were found to have strontium-90 levels above the average for those without cancer in the same counties. Furthermore, 11 out of these 14 teeth have significantly higher strontium-90 concentrations. On average, strontium-90 levels in cancer teeth were 85% higher than those found in non-cancer teeth.
Conclusions and recommendations
The authors conclude that the radioactivity releases from the Turkey Point and St. Lucie NPPs are the primary cause of rising strontium-90 levels in southeast Florida baby teeth, which is the highest in the counties near the plants.
Strontium-90 levels are significantly higher in teeth from children with cancer. The higher levels of strontium-90 in children with cancer raises the question whether exposure to emissions by the two NPPs may be a possible cause for the cancer. The authors are quite strong in their conclusions when they state that "there is now substantial evidence that exposure [...] is a significant causal factor". But as this is only a first study on strontium-90 levels in Florida they also recommend that more detailed studies on cancer rates and a relation with strontium-90 levels are necessary before full conclusions can be drawn.
The possible radiation-cancer link should also be considered in future federal policies regulating the operation of nuclear reactors, especially on renewal or extension of the licenses of aging reactors.
More information about the Radiation and Public Health Project can be found at their website: www.radiation.org. The website also includes earlier study results of the project.
1. Environmental Radiation from Nuclear Reactors and Childhood Cancer in Southeast Florida, Radiation and Public Health Project, 9 April 2003
2. Press release RPHP, 9 April 2003
Contact: J. Mangano, National Coordinator, RPHP, 786 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215, U.S.
Tel: +1 718 857 9825
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 11:13 AM
The Journal News
(Original Publication: January 16, 2007)
Hudson River Fish Found to Contain Radioactive Isotope
By Greg Clary
Strontium 90's effect on health
Strontium 90 is chemically similar to calcium, and tends to deposit in bone and blood-forming tissue (bone marrow). Thus, strontium 90 is referred to as a "bone seeker." Internal exposure to strontium 90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia. Risk of cancer increases with increased exposure to strontium 90. The risk depends on the concentrations in the environment and on the exposure conditions.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
BUCHANAN - In what could be the region's next environmental controversy or simply just a laboratory mistake, fish in the Hudson River have been found to contain traces of strontium 90.
The radioactive isotope was discovered leaking almost a year ago at the Indian Point nuclear plants, and tests on 12 fish show four with detectible amounts, according to a memo obtained by The Journal News. The tests were conducted for Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plants, after researchers pulled the fish from the river during the summer - six from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge area, and the rest from around Indian Point.
"Certainly it's of concern that the strontium was found in 25 percent of the sampling," said C. J. Miller, spokeswoman for Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.
"The origin of that is something that we need to determine. If indeed it is coming from the plant itself, then that needs to be remedied immediately."
The company has spent millions to find and stop the leaks, but so far have only been able to capture much of the radiated water without successfully plugging the sources. No other radioactive isotopes were found in the fish, federal regulators said. Three of the upriver fish had strontium levels ranging as high as 24.5 picocuries per kilogram, while one taken from near the plant showed 18.8 picocuries per kilogram, according to results first released late last week.
Picocuries measure radioactivity level in the tiniest amounts, and though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn't set safe minimums for fish, Westchester County officials said the mean detectible level is 10 picocuries per kilogram. Strontium has a half-life of nearly 29 years and was banned in the United States after weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s left large amounts in the atmosphere. Health officials warned at the time that it competed with calcium in human bodies, especially in growing children, and could affect bone development.
Public officials, regulators and plant owners are eager to see more sampling results to determine if the results were merely inaccurate, as false positives are more likely at low levels, or is something more significant.
"We have samples that quite honestly seem to be a little questionable," said Anthony Sutton, Westchester County's top emergency management official.
"A follow-up test is called for and that's what we've advocated."
Sutton said the fact the majority of fish testing positive for strontium 90 had been found 30 miles away in the control group only muddies the results more. As part of its investigation into groundwater contamination at Indian Point, Entergy has increased its monitoring of aquatic life in the Hudson River, including bass, perch, sunfish and eel. The strontium 90 has shown up in the fleshy parts of the fish, not the bones, which surprised regulators.
Plant officials have acknowledged that a tritium leak discovered in August 2005 and strontium leaks discovered in February have likely reached the river, though they and NRC regulators have maintained there is no threat to worker safety or public health. Jim Steets, Indian Point's spokesman, said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have been tracking strontium levels in fish around the nuclear plant, and strontium has shown up in fish at these levels before, levels he said were more background readings than a real cause for concern.
Attempts to reach the state DEC yesterday were unsuccessful because the offices were closed for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said his agency was interested in reviewing state data for the area for comparisons while awaiting more sampling data.
"We don't consider this a serious situation," Sheehan said. "We would very much like to gather some more information before we make any judgments on this. There are several issues that may call these results into question."
Opponents of the nuclear plant said yesterday that they want to see more research done as well, to determine how significant the impact on the river is from the leaks.
"If the levels of strontium 90 in Hudson River fish are indeed above background levels, this confirms Riverkeeper's worst fears," said Lisa Rainwater, the Indian Point campaign coordinator for Riverkeeper.
"Based on the preliminary data, the leak is likely affecting the entire Hudson River ecosystem. This is a black eye for Entergy and their management of high-level radioactive waste."
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 11:12 AM
SA Radioactive Stream - 400,000 At High Risk
By Adriana Stuijt
Exclusive to Rense.com
SOUTH AFRICA -- Elise Tempelhoff, an investigative journalist at the Afrikaans-language newspaper Beeld in Johannesburg, South Africa, has published details of a restricted scientific German report which has found that more than 400,000 people living along a 100-km stretch of the Wonderfontein Spruit in Gauteng province are being seriously contaminated by, among others, dangerously high levels of radioactive radium-pollutants including lead and radioactive polonium - similar to the substance which had killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London on November 23, 2006.
This lethal pollution comes from Harmony Gold Mines, the fifth-largest producer of gold in the world, and which also produces uranium as a byproduct of its gold-mining operations. More than 400,000 people, their livestock and crops rely on water from this South African stream which has now been found so dangerously polluted.
The report by a group of German physicists headed by Dr Rainer Barthel stressed that there was ' no natural water in the whole area that was safe for use by humans, animals or plants - ' adding that the livestock of the subsistence-farmers living along this stream, are also stirring up the radioactive mud, thus endangering people even more -- and were at particularly high risk. People should not eat any meat from this livestock, drink any of its milk, nor consume any of the crops irrigated with this dangerously polluted water...
According to Barthel 's report, the water from the Wonderfontein Spruit, used to irrigate the crops, had absorbed polonium and lead, the radioactive by products of uranium and radium. More than 400,000 people live in the area ranging from the towns of Randfontein, Bekkersdal, Carletonville, Westonaria, Khutsong and Welverdiend, their livestock drinks from the river and their crops are irrigated from it.
Barthel was prevented from delivering two speeches from the report at the Environmin 2007 conference at the Pilanesberg nature reserve two weeks ago. He had to withdraw these speeches at short notice. These two excerpts had by then already been included in the literature distributed at the conference and were obtained by the Beeld journalist.
International experts say people who eat or drink these products could suffer liver or kidney failure or get cancer. It could also hamper children's growth and cause mental disability. German physicists working with Dr Rainer Barthel from BS Associates warn that the water from the Wonderfontein Spruit, which was used to irrigate the crops, had absorbed polonium and lead, the radioactive byproducts of uranium and radium. Cattle also contaminated
Cattle drinking from the Wonderfontein Spruit that churned up the uranium-rich mud, were also contaminated by these radioactive pollutants. Their meat and milk would also probably be poisonous. This report by the Germans, known as the Brenk report, was compiled on request of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), who refused to make the contents known for the past three months. Beeld, the hard-hitting Afrikaans-language newspaper, had obtained excerpts from the report. Natural water sources unsafe
Barthel and his co-authors came to the conclusion in the report that the land in this area - where more than 400 000 people live in Randfontein, Bekkersdal, Carletonville, Westonaria, Khutsong and Welverdiend - was seriously polluted by overflow from sludge dams during 100 years of mining.
People in towns in this area received their drinking water piped in from Rand Water Company, but many tens of thousands of people on the farms and in the squatter-camps along its banks rely wholly on water from Wonderfontein Spruit.
Sandy Carroll, who was recently appointed environmental manager at Harmony Gold Mines, told Beeld newspaper that admittedly, 'the mining groups were informed about the dangers indicated in the report.'[ She said Harmony 'was talking to NNR and they were together seeking solutions. '
The West Rand district municipality planned to erect notices warning people along the Wonderfontein Spruit (which runs for 100km) not to use the water. Carroll replied in an e-mail to Beeld's enquiries: "Alternative water sources will be suggested."
The report stressed that there was no natural water in the whole area that was safe for use by humans, animals or plants.
Mariette Lieffering, an environmental activist who established the Public Environmental Arbiters (PEA), said said she had just written to the Human Rights Commission of South Africa to step in. A cabbage that was irrigated with water from the Wonderfontein Spruit catchment area and which was analysed by Dr Francois Durand, zoology lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, was found to contain 153 times more aluminium, 680 times more iron, 590 times more manganese, 980 times more vanadium that was recommended for human and also had too much zinc.
Beeld report on radioactive poisoning:
Harmony Gold Mines in SA:
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 11:12 AM
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Dec 3, 2007, 2007 (IPS/GIN via COMTEX) — Gold-mining companies operating to the west of Johannesburg, South Africa, stand accused of contaminating a number of water sources with radioactive pollutants.
One case involves the Wonderfontein Spruit — a stream that runs 90 kilometers from the outskirts of Johannesburg to the southwest past the towns of Krugersdorp, Bekkersdal, Carletonville and Khutsong, before flowing into the Mooi River near Potchefstroom.
Mariette Liefferink, an environmental activist, blames the mines for the high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, cobalt and zinc in the waters of the “spruit” (watercourse). She is particularly troubled by the levels of uranium, which gives off radioactive byproducts such as polonium and lead.
“The Wonderfontein Spruit is of major concern to us because every year the gold mines discharge 50 metric tons of uranium into the receiving watercourse. The Water Research Commission has found that there are approximately 1,100 milligrams per kilogram of uranium in the upper Wonderfontein Spruit and 900 milligrams per kilogram in the lower Wonderfontein Spruit area.”
Government bodies have commissioned several studies to ascertain the gravity of the water pollution in the Wonderfontein Spruit. The most recent study, known as the Brenk report, was commissioned by the National Nuclear Regulator — a governmental body set up to monitor and regulate the production and use of nuclear materials — and compiled under the direction of German physicist Rainer Barthel.
Initially the government was so embarrassed by the Brenk report that the National Nuclear Regulator refused to release it to the public. Barthel was due to present his findings to the Environmin 2007 conference July 24-25, so organizers of this event were told to withdraw his invitation.
When the Brenk Report was eventually made public in August, it resulted in a number of contradictory messages.
Harmony Gold — the world’s fifth largest gold producer, and one of the mines responsible for the uranium discharge — relayed to farmers on its lands a directive from the National Nuclear Regulator saying that livestock may not consume water from the Wonderfontein Spruit.
The report said water in the river had absorbed polonium and lead. Barthel also noted in the study that there was no natural water in the area that was safe for use by humans, animals or plants.
However, Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said in a written response to a question posed in parliament that none of the 47 samples from the Wonderfontein Spruit exceeded the National Nuclear Regulator regulatory limit for public exposure. “The use of this water is therefore safe for drinking purposes, but it should be borne in mind that the water is raw or untreated river water that has not been treated to potable drinking water standards,” Hendricks said.
This assurance came despite her acknowledgement, in the same response, that “elevated levels of radioactive contamination have been detected in the sediments of dams and weirs along the river. This may pose potential problems should it be ingested by livestock churning up the sediments.”
The chief executive of the National Nuclear Regulator, Maurice Magugumela, has made an effort to quell public fears over this situation, saying that the poisoned water and sediments posed “no cause for concern.”
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 11:11 AM
Large gold-mining companies operating to the west of South Africa's commercial centre, Johannesburg, stand accused of contaminating a number of water sources with radioactive pollutants.
One case involves the Wonderfontein Spruit ("water course", in Afrikaans): a stream that runs 90 kilometres from the outskirts of Johannesburg to the south-west past the towns of Krugersdorp, Bekkersdal, Carletonville and Khutsong, before flowing into the Mooi River near Potchefstroom.
Mariette Liefferink, an environmental activist, blames the mines for the high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, copper cobalt and zinc in the waters of the spruit. She is particularly troubled by the levels of uranium, which gives off radioactive by-products such as polonium and lead.
"The Wonderfontein Spruit is of major concern to us because every year the gold mines discharge 50 tonnes of uranium into the receiving water course. The Water Research Commission (a parastatal research body) has found that there are approximately 1,100 milligrammes per kilogramme of uranium in the upper Wonderfontein Spruit, and 900 milligrammes per kilogramme in the lower Wonderfontein Spruit area."
Heavy metal concentrations are higher in the upper reaches of the river because a large percentage of the pollutants sink into the sediments as water flows downstream. This means that under normal circumstances water tests in lower areas do not cause great concern, and users may feel that they are not under threat from heavy metal contaminants.
If, however, the sediments are in any way disturbed -- by cattle, or children playing in the river, for example -- the uranium can easily be dislodged from the sediments and reabsorbed into the water.
Government bodies have commissioned several studies to ascertain the gravity of the water pollution in the Wonderfontein Spruit. The most recent study, known as the Brenk report, was commissioned by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) -- a governmental body set up to monitor and regulate the production and use of nuclear materials -- and compiled under the direction of German physicist Rainer Barthel.
Initially government was so embarrassed by the Brenk report that the NNR refused to release it to the public, and as Barthel was due to present his findings to the Environmin 2007 conference on Jul. 24-25, organisers of this event were told to withdraw his invitation.
When the Brenk Report was eventually made public in August, it resulted in a number of contradictory messages.
Harmony Gold -- the world's fifth largest gold producer, and one of the mines responsible for the uranium discharge -- relayed to farmers on its lands a directive from the NNR saying that livestock may not consume water from the Wonderfontein Spruit.
The report said that water in the river had absorbed polonium and lead. Barthel also noted in the study that there was no natural water in the whole area that was safe for use by humans, animals or plants.
However, Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said in a written response to a question posed in parliament that none of the 47 samples from the Wonderfontein Spruit exceeded the NNR regulatory limit for public exposure. "The use of this water is therefore safe for drinking purposes, but it should be borne in mind that the water is raw or untreated river water that has not been treated to potable drinking water standards."
This assurance came despite her acknowledgement, in the same response, that "Elevated levels of radioactive contamination have been detected in the sediments of dams and weirs along the river. This may pose potential problems should it be ingested by live-stock churning up the sediments."
The chief executive of the NNR, Maurice Magugumela, has made an effort to quell public fears over this situation, saying that the poisoned water and sediments posed "no cause for concern."
In addition, the city council of Potchefstroom has gone to great lengths to assure its residents that the city's drinking water is safe. Potchefstroom sources much of its water from the Boskop dam which is partly fed by the Wonderfontein Spruit.
"Treated water from the Boskop and Potchefstroom dams are of high quality especially regarding its heavy metal and uranium content," said mayoral spokesman Kaizer Mohau, in a statement.
There is no reason to doubt Mohau's statement, which must certainly comfort city residents who drink tap water.
But it will do little for the estimated 150,000 people living in impoverished settlements along the Wonderfontein Spruit's banks. They may have no choice but to drink untreated water from the river.
Acid mine drainage
Gold mines are also finding themselves in the dock over acid mine drainage, another means by which heavy metals are being released into the environment.
Mining operations expose heavy metals and sulphur compounds that have been locked away in the ground. Rising ground water then leaches these compounds out of the exposed earth, resulting in acid mine drainage that can continue to pollute the environment decades after mines have been closed down.
In 2002, acidic water began decanting out of a disused mine on Randfontein Estates about 42 kilometres south-west of Johannesburg. The property belonged at that time to Harmony Gold. In terms of South Africa's National Water Act the owner of land is accountable for the quality of the water flowing out of that ground.
While some of this acidic water was produced by Harmony's own operations, a large proportion was generated by its competitors.
Mining companies extracting ore in the Witwatersrand area, to the east and west of Johannesburg, have created a 300 kilometre labyrinth of interlinking passages, according to the 'Water Wheel' magazine (Jan./Feb. 2007 issue).
The companies have to work together to make sure their respective operations are not flooded out; this means that in some cases even disused mines have to be pumped dry to ensure the viability of a neighbouring shaft.
Water coming out of the disused mine in Randfontein could not simply be channelled into the nearest river because it was far too acidic and could have had serious consequences for the environment.
As an emergency measure, Harmony fed the water into Robinson Lake, at that time a popular recreational area where fishing was a favourite pastime. Today the lake has very high levels of uranium and a pH level of 2.2, which makes it as acidic as lemon juice and completely incapable of sustaining any life forms.
The NNR measured in the water a uranium concentration of 16 milligrammes per litre, obliging it to declare Robinson Lake a radiation area.
Harmony Gold has spent more than 14 million dollars on capital and operational expenses over the last five years to treat the acidic water emerging from disused mines. An additional 200,000 dollars is spent every month to continue with the treatment processes: in its 'Sustainable Development Report 2007' the company claims that it ". . . treats the water to acceptable standards given the current treatment technologies available."
What Harmony Gold finds acceptable, however, may be less so to environmentalists.
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 11:11 AM
Monday, March 3, 2008
Enough was enough, says Froneman
Posted: Thu, 21 Feb 2008
[miningmx.com] -- IT was time to move on, and time for a change because a chief executive should only be in the position for five to seven years, said Neal Froneman, who suddenly and unexpectedly quit his position as the head of Uranium One on Thursday.
Froneman, who spent the five years building Uranium One from scratch, announced his resignation at the same time the company issued a second downward revision of uranium production targets in four months because of problems in South Africa and Kazakhstan.
Uranium One shares fell hard in South Africa on news of Froneman’s departure and the production revision, wiping out some R5.5bn in market capitalisation.
The latest reverse in fortunes for Uranium One played no role in his decision, Froneman said.
“Uranium One has moved into a very different phase. There’s going to be a lot more focus on operational issues in coming years and it is an opportune time for me to move on,” Froneman told Miningmx in an interview.
“I’ve had a very difficult, but exciting five years. It gets to a point where enough is enough," he said.
“I left of my own accord. I could have stayed on, but I’ve always said the appropriate tenure for a CEO is five to seven years,” he said, adding he has offered his services as a consultant to Uranium One, which had aspirations to challenge Cameco for the position as number one uranium producer.
Jean Nortier, a company stalwart who is filling the CEO position in the interim, suggested the ongoing problems at the Dominion mine in South Africa could have been one of the causes to prompt Froneman's departure.
"The issue of Dominion raised a lot of tensions internally and it's not nice when an operations doesn't function optimally. You not only have to deal with staff working longer hours, but you also have the difficulties of the promises you made to the market," Nortier told Miningmx.
"Neal's decision was very quick otherwise we would have put in place a proper succession plan. It was a pretty big surprise," he said. Asked whether his departure could have been better planned, leaving a succession strategy in place, Froneman said there was a lot of talent in the company. “I think there’s good succession in place in the company,” he said.
“It’s very difficult to prepare the market for a change,” he said, arguing that by telling the market in advance he was leaving it could have built up an overhang of shares. “Either I could have told the market well ahead of time that I was leaving, but that creates its own longer-lasting damage, or I could just get to the point and leave,” he said. “At executive level, you should just resign and move on.”
Froneman is going to take a break of month or more before devoting his attention to Aflease Gold, a company majority held by Uranium One and one which has long headed as CEO.
“There’s always sadness in leaving behind something you’ve worked so hard to build, but I’m very proud of what’s been achieved. I’ve mixed feelings. I’m happy to be getting into something new,” he said.
The first thing he’d like to do is take the company to an offshore listing, most likely to be on a North American bourse, before looking at mergers and acquisitions.
There needs to be more liquidity in Aflease Gold shares, and while he says he’s not expecting Uranium One to completely exit its holding, Froneman would like to see more Aflease Gold shares released for the retail market.
There are mounting challenges in operating a mining company in South Africa, with the power shortages and the government's approach to enforcing safer working conditions on mines being just two of these, he said.
“If you talk to any mining company in South Africa at the moment you will hear they are operating under ridiculous conditions. The power outages have having a bigger impact than is being realised in the market,” Froneman said.
The Department of Minerals and Energy’s approach of temporarily shutting down shafts when there’s a death on a mine is counterproductive, he said.
“People react very badly when they’re put under pressure from a safety point of view,” he said. “The big stick approach doesn’t work. It’s been tried before and didn’t work.”
Once he’s achieved what he wants to at Aflease Gold, most likely when its growth aspirations have been met, he will move on to something else. “I’m at that stage in my life where I’m looking at other options, but there’s nothing planned.”
Froneman says Dominion a solid asset as Uranium One continues its slide
By: Matthew Hill
Published: 22 Feb 08 - 16:44
While distressed uranium-miner Uranium One's stock continued its downward spiral on Friday, shedding a further 15%, questions had been raised about the legitimacy of its Dominion Reefs Uranium Mine, near Klerksdorp, after 2008 production forecasts were slashed by one-quarter.
However, Neal Froneman, who suddenly stepped down as Uranium One CEO on Thursday, said he continued to believe that the project was solid.
"I am still of the view that Dominion is a solid asset," he told Mining Weekly Online in a telephone interview.
Uranium One was trading 15% down at around R32 a share by 11:00 in Johannesburg, before regaining some ground to close at just more than 10% down for the day.
Consultancy firm SRK Consultants compiled the competent persons report on the project in 2006, and the author who signed it off said that the firm had done it in compliance with international standards.
Partner and corporate consultant Roger Dickson said that SRK had no reason to believe that its report was not 100% accurate.
A media report on Friday said that Anglo American had compiled a report on Dominion ten years earlier, which reported a recovered grade that was less one-half of what SRK cited.
Dickson said that he had not seen such a report, nor was aware of the existence of one.
He said he "found it quite hard to believe" that Anglo American would have spent R20-million on such a report, as the media report suggested.
Posted by stop-toxic-uranium-mining at 10:36 AM