Posts Tagged ‘Radioactive’

When you think of nuclear weapons, you probably think of America, Russia, China or Iran. But you might be shocked to discover that South Africa had its very own secret nuclear programme that was developed during apartheid.

While sources disagree about the exact date that the Apartheid Government initiated their nuclear arms programme, many believe that the decision “develop a limited nuclear deterrent capabilities” can be traced back to as as early as 1974.

In order to achieve this goal, the government stepped up the production at their uranium enrichment plant at Valindaba, known as the “Y-plant”. Numerous nuclear tests were also performed at the Somerset West explosives installation near Cape Town.
While the Apartheid Government’s activities during the 70’s were mainly secret, their actions did alarm leaders in the Soviet Union and the U.S. The Soviets allegedly considered a pre-emptive strike on the Y-plant, an option that U.S. officials reportedly rejected.
In 1977, South Africa successfully managed first full-scale nuclear explosive device based on a gun-type design.

According to reports, a U.S. Vela surveillance satellite detected a distinct light event off of Africa’s southern coast in 1979. U.S. officials believed that the source of the light was a nuclear test performed by the Apartheid Government, producing an intense double flash of light. The Apartheid Government denied all knowledge of the event. Later, representatives from the government stated that South Africa could not have been responsible for the double flash as it did not possess a complete nuclear device until November 1979.

According to reports, the Apartheid Government managed to produce a total of six nuclear devices by the 1980’s. The Apartheid Government was able to do so by mastering the uranium production and enrichment process in order to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle with advanced waste management techniques.

But while South Africa was able to produce a number of nuclear weapons, by the late 1980’s, the Apartheid Government was facing incredible political pressure, both locally and abroad.

One of the government’s strongest bargaining chips was the ability to negotiate with regards to their nuclear weapons programme. Under great international pressure, South Africa begun nuclear disarmament in 1989.

What happened to all of South Africa’s nuclear scientists? Where did they go and what have they been doing for the past twenty years? Some might be driven by money, some by ideology…but it’s hard to imagine that they have been sitting around twiddling their thumbs…There must be plenty of rouge nations or extremist groups that would the skills that only nuclear scientists could provide. Could nuclear experiments still be secretly going on in South Africa?

What do you think?

For a more detailed overview of South Africa’s secret nuclear history, click here

For more information about the South Africa’s disarmament process, click here

Secret South Africa has published a number of posts about the Acid Water Crisis that is threatening the city of Joburg. But in addition to the Acid Water, it seems that there is something else that South Africans should be worried about.

According to an article published by The Saturday Star on August 7th, two of South Africa’s mining giants, Rand Uranium and Gold Fields are planning to create major toxic and radioactive super-dumps. The mining companies are planning to create the two super-dumps near farming communities in the high-yield agricultural area near Carletonville and Geluksdal.

According to The Saturday Star, the combined of the dumps would result in a deposit of around one billion tons of uraniferous tailings. Yes, you read correctly. One BILLION TONS of uraniferous tailings. Investigations around uraniferous tailings have concluded that they transfer radio nuclides to nearby vegetation which is extremely unhealthy for humans.

Not only do these dumps affect vegetation, toxic and radioactive pollutants also seep into groundwater sources. This could only add to the heavy metals such as uranium and sulphates have been found in high concentration in the acid water underneath Johannesburg.

After 120 years of gold mining in Gauteng’s West Rand, the area has become one of the country’s most polluted areas and a serious public health risk. The new plans to create additional dumps is a concern for local farmers. So much so that emerging black farmers, the Mhatammoho Agricultural Union, and the potentially affected landowners organized a second protest in April citing the fact that the community was never consulted about creation of new mine dumps.

And it seems as if they have just cause. The have been numerous reports that the mines in the area have had an overwhelmingly negative effect on local water supplies. Fish in nearby water sources in the area have been found dead and residents have also reported breaking out into vicious rashes after wearing clothes that had been washed in local water. Farmers have also noticed the livestock, particularly chickens, have been dying at an abnormal rate. It is clear that the radioactivity contained in the waste is not conductive to sustaining animal and human life. Special Assignment covered this issue and you can see their report here.  Clearly, the creation of more super-dumps would only make the situation worse.

The surrounding areas have been subject to over a century’s worth of toxic mining waste. What other effects has this had of the local communities? We only know what has been uncovered but how many stories have yet to be told?

How will South Africa’s toxic and radioactive materials physically affect our population. The long-term effects cannot be good. Why is government making no significant inroads towards legislation protecting our water and agriculture from greedy mining companies?

I’ve been following the progress of the Acid Water Crisis that is brewing beneath the city of Joburg and I came across an interesting article published in this week’s Saturday Star, written by Sheree Bega.

The article featured an interview with Professor Terence McCarthy from the school of Geosciences at Wits University.

Currently the acid water is now 530m below Johannesburg and is still rising at a rate of about 60cm a day. McCarthy has warned that if the water reaches the surface, basements in the inner city, including building belonging to Standard Bank, could begin to flood. In addition to this, Gold Reef City could also potentially lose their underground mine to the acid water.

But McCarthy is also worried about another unforeseen consequence of the acid water. There are currently a series of underground tunnels that house Johannesburg’s electricity cables. The acid water contains high levels of heavy metal, including uranium and sulphates. And if the tunnels below Johannesburg flood with corrosive water, the entire city could be plunged into darkness.

McCarthy stated that none of the mining companies will step up to take responsibility. It will then be up to the government, who are the largest beneficiary of mining in South Africa according to McCarthy, to take action.

It seems that the water crisis is getting worse and no one is doing anything about it.

I think action needs to be taken. What do you think?

If you thought there was more behind the current acid water crisis that is brewing beneath the city of Joburg, then you’re right.

I was shocked to find an article from IOL about Aurora Empowerment Systems and a group of unpaid miners that was published over a month ago.

The miners claim that they are the victims of “mining genocide” after more than 100 miners continued to maintain the now suspended Grootvlei mine for several months without pay.

Aurora Empowerment Systems is run by relatives of both President Jacob Zuma and former President Nelson Mandela, and according to the IOL article, is reportedly bankrupt. Aurora retained certain workers to create a care-and-maintenance team when it stopped operations at the Springs mine in March following protests by more than 2 000 mineworkers over unpaid salaries.

According to the article, the workers described their situation as mining genocide because the government is aware of the crisis at Aurora, but failed to take action against the company.

Grootvlei is the last pump station in operation in Ekurhuleni, and its flooding could permanently destroy the mine, but also ultimately unleash a toxic tide of radioactive acid mine water on the surface within the next four years.

Workers at the mine continued to work without pay because of their duty to prevent a catastrophe, but said they had not been paid for four months and were tired of empty promises.

The Department of Water Affairs has already hit Aurora with criminal charges for failing to treat 108 million litres of acid mine water discharged daily into the protected Blesbokspruit wetland system for several months. This water flows into the protected Marievale Bird Sanctuary, and reaches the Vaal River.

The toxic, radioactive water is loaded with sulphates, heavy metals such as manganese, and iron.

IOL reported that Lawyers for Human Rights visited Grootvlei on a fact-finding mission where hundreds of unpaid mineworkers, mostly foreigners, were living in its hostels without access to food, electricity and clean water because of Aurora’s R100 million debt to creditors of Grootvlei.

According to an article published by the Business Report earlier this month, Aurora has managed to secure R50 million from Global Emerging Markets(GEM) to cover their short term needs.

Aurora, whose managing director is Zondwa Mandela, a grandson of Nelson Mandela, and whose chairman Khulubuse Zuma is President Zuma’s nephew, is now apparently treating the water following the notice of criminal charges.

Is the government more closely linked to the acid water crisis than they would have us believe?

Is there a modern day conspiracy bubbling beneath the streets of Joburg?

More on this story as it happens…

State of Emergency?

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Here is a quick update about the Acid Water Crisis that rocked Joburg last week.

Jaco Mulder, the Freedom Front Plus spokesperson on water and environmental affairs, says that Joburg’s acid water crisis should be treated as a state of emergency.

According to an article published by News24, Mulder stated that the true extent of the crisis was greater than the attention it was being given, despite welcoming the fact that the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has started to take legal action against certain mining companies.

Mulder predicted that without the proper communication and cooperation between local, provincial and national governments, the current situation could quickly transform into a “national water disaster”.

Is the government doing enough to address the crisis? Personally, I think they should be doing more to protect the millions of people that will ultimately be affected by the acid water across South Africa.

I’ll bring you more details about the crisis as soon as I find them.

It’s less than a day since the launch of Secret South Africa and a massive story is breaking beneath Johannesburg.

Joburg woke up today, only to find that millions of litres of highly acidic mine water is rising up under the city, and  if left unchecked, could spill out into the streets in less than 18 months. If the acid water rose to the surface, it could pose a serious threat to the city’s inhabitants, its buildings and the surrounding environment.

Currently the acid water is situated about 600m below the city’s surface, but it is rising at a rate of between 0.6 and 0.9m a day.

The acid water is formed when it oxidises with the sulphide mineral iron pyrite, better known as fool’s gold, and tarts to seep into the surrounding ground.

In 2002, acid mine drainage started decanting from the Western Basin, located below the Krugersdorp-Randfontein area. The outflow grew worse earlier this year after heavy rains. When government attempted to neutralise the acid water by pouring tons of lime into the Tweelopies Spruit, a thick sludge was formed in the water.

The problem of acid water is not new. According to Leadership, Joburg’s Western Basin was flooded in 2002 and 2005 by acid mine water and that transformed the Tweelopiespruit into a class-5 toxic river. The Robinson Lake became a radioactive dam with uranium levels of 40 000 above background or natural uranium levels.

According to The Times, many RDP houses are being erected next to radioactive dumps. Many of Gauteng’s poorer communities live alongside, or on top of, land contaminated by mining activities. These people are exposed to high concentrations of cobalt, zinc, arsenic, and cadmium, all known carcinogens, as well as high levels of radioactive uranium.

This makes you wonder. How safe is South Africa’s water supply and how easily could it be compromised?

Is Johannesburg’s acid water problem merely the result of bad management? Or maybe the real reason is something completely different…

We should be worried that our mines are have been producing radioactive material for nearly ten years. And we should be even more worried that the government has done little to rectify the situation.

What is really happening behind the scenes?

What do you think?