UCT to lead network on tackling mine dust
Breathing in toxic mine dust has had a devastating effect on many mineworkers and communities. Now an innovative network, based at the University of Cape Town (UCT), hopes to open channels of communication and come up with solutions to this pervasive problem.
The GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network
aims to provide a platform for multiple stakeholders to develop integrated solutions to the polluting effects of dust emitted by mining and its associated operations in mining-intensive developing countries.
Impact statement: Improved quality of life, health and 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
This objective is central to the success of this network. Research or discourse relating to mine dust has until now been carried out in disciplinary and sectoral silos with little engagement or discussion between different stakeholders, mainly due to perceived positions of distrust and competing interests. A unique three-tiered network structure involving open forums, special interest and working groups will enable constructive interactions to take place, with safe spaces for open conversations about the issues important to all stakeholders. The network will facilitate information and knowledge sharing and will actively engage stakeholders to use and implement insights gained from network activities..
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
It is clear from the lack of progress made towards solving issues surrounding mine dust that a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research approach is needed to integrate and share knowledge on, for example, potential dust source and dispersion pathways; significant characteristics of dust that adversely impact the environment and health, monitoring methods and practices; measures to manage dispersion and reduce health impacts, etc. This network brings together researchers from disciplines as diverse as occupational health, immunology, engineering, medical anthropology, geomorphology, law and more. A strong emphasis will be placed on involving early career researchers and students from a range of ODA countries to equip them with the knowledge and skills to deal with challenging real-world problems.
To increase community and regulatory awareness of mine dust related health risks and mitigation measures to devise low-cost solutions which will make previously voiceless communities part of the problem-solving team
Communities close to mines may not be aware of the grave health risks caused by inhaling fine dust particles, ingesting contaminated soils or dermal contact with mine dust. They also may feel they have no recourse to address their living conditions. Giving communities a voice, and similarly informing regulators of the risks and mitigation opportunities open to them will result in practical and enforceable regulations accepted by all stakeholders. The network forum will be open to members of community organisations, regulatory bodies and government organisations, and part of this objective will be to work together to devise low-cost solutions, including developing the evidence they need to translate research into policy. Such evidence will include establishing the burden of disease potentially linked to dust-exposures and the syndemic risk factors that contribute to them.