GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network
The Global Challenges Research Fund Mine Dust and Health Network serves as a collaborative, trans-disciplinary and multi-sectoral think-tank to inform research, policy and practice on the issues and impacts associated with the emission of dust from mining-related activities, including the extraction, processing and transport of ores.
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT OF MINING-IMPACTED COMMUNITIES
To facilitate a shared and common understanding of the inter-related health risks and mitigation opportunities relating to mine dust by creating safe spaces for open discussion by all stakeholders.
To develop interdisciplinary research capacity, particularly among early career researchers in developing countries, to provide meaningful inputs to collaborative problem solving and to propose integrated solutions relevant to specific country/population contexts.
To increase community and regulatory awareness of mine dust related health risks and mitigation measures to devise affordable solutions which will make previously voiceless communities part of the problem-solving team.
Our network members have identified 5 key focus areas to investigate.
Where can you become involved?
Mitigation and rehabilitation
Finding innovative, relevant and available technology to prevent dust from being emitted and ensure appropriate and thorough rehabilitation. However, network members suggested that, in many instances, the knowledge, technology and legislation exist to ensure proper mitigation and rehabilitation. What is lacking is the enforcement and the political will to make things work. In addition, rampant corruption and the lack of communal buy-in causes further hindrances to progress. We need a new social contract in which everybody buys into.
Exposure and health effects
Focuses on identifying, characterising and quantifying the different impacts of dust on human health, the environment and animals. The availability of data on the source, the dust and the exposure over time can be used to determine and reduce uncertainties around the anticipated health impacts and what a safe level of exposure would be, taking into consideration the vulnerability of communities. The network has expressed frustration at the lack of access to good quality data to monitor exposure. We need to adopt integrated and multisectoral approaches to focus on the root cause of the problem – the generation of dust.
Monitoring and measurement
Why do we monitor and measure? What is the end goal? Is it for compliance or management or for ensuring decent air quality? Source apportionment, as well the characterisation of dust size and composition are aspects that members feel need attention. Our dustfall method is seen as outdated and we need to find alternatives that are still easy to use and affordable. Communities feel that they do not trust the available data. Implementing new technologies, especially as part of a citizen science project could help resolve conflict and ensure buy in.
Policy and law
Members raised the constraints of the current state of policies and law. We have good policies and legal frameworks in place, such as the Constitution ad NEMA. We have a solid and reputable scientific community providing input, good guidance and advice from parts of government and a strong civil society that holds industry and government to account, backed up by strong advocacy and judiciary system. Despite this, many members felt the law is not doing its job. What exactly is holding us back?
Community awareness and education
Regardless of how we imagine or understand communities, they are not necessarily homogenous and there will be divisions within that. We need to pay attention to a range of socio-economic demographics. The notion that dust is a problem is not a uniform thought or priority. While for researchers it seems apparent that dust poses health risks and is thus an issue, there are others for who dust is not a priority, even if they know it is an issue. This can be because for them putting food on their families table is the highest priority. Communities need to be part of this conversation.
The GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network Team Talking About the Network and the Upcoming Technical Session on Mine Dust at the NACA 2020 Conference.
Finding Solutions To The Problem Of Mine Dust
Unresolved issues surrounding mine dust show that a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research approach is needed to integrate and share knowledge on potential dust sources and dispersion pathways; dust characteristics, monitoring methods and practices; measures to manage dispersion and reduce health impacts. This network connects diverse stakeholders in a safe space for open conversations that will facilitate information and knowledge sharing to implement insights gained.
Over the last couple of years, the network has provided the opportunity for all interested and affected parties to join the discussion about finding solutions to the problem of mine dust. Please join the network and take part in this conversation. Join one of our working groups and become actively involved. You can read more on http://minedust.org/projects-listing/ and sign up here http://minedust.org/contact/.
For mining to be sustainable, communities must be sustainable. For communities to be sustainable and to level the playing fields, they need access to knowledge and information. As a network it is part of our objectives to provide access to knowledge and information. In this competition we would like you to take part in fulfilling this mandate by designing an Infographic portraying the hazards and/or impacts of mine dust on a local community.
The infographic should provide information that can educate the community on the exposure risks, health effects, preventive measures and potential mitigation of mine dust impacts (max file size 3MB – please visit the network website below for more details).
The winner of the Infographic competition will be awarded R5000 prize money.
Competition closes 10 December. Details can be found on our website at http://minedust.org/
Associate Professor Jennifer Lee Broadhurst
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Cape Town.
Tel : + 27 21 650 1897
Dr. Cledwyn Mangunda
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Cape Town.
Tel : + 27 21 650 2511
Dr. Johanna von Holdt
Department of Environmental And Geographical Sciences
University of Cape Town
Tel : +27 21 650 2244