Project: Corporate compliance for rehabilitation of the Highveld calcite waste dump, by Nthabiseng Mahlangu and Elvis Komane.

Elvis and NthabisengNthabiseng Mahlangu and Elvis Komane are from CULISA (Council of Land Informal Residence and Family Development South Africa) an organisation based in Emalahleni (meaning place of coal) in Mpumalanga. Their change project is looking at corporate compliance related to the Highveld Calcite Waste Dump, a legacy dump threatening the health of people and ecosystems in Ward 12 of Emalahleni Municipality. Nthabiseng and Elvis have visited the dump and surrounding communities, and gathered the following evidence:

“The dump consists of more than 17 million tons of calcite waste, surrounded by sink holes and toxic dams. The dump sits next to the main entrance gate of Vanchem Vanadium and looks exactly like a huge grey mountain about 40 meters long with no trees or any vegetation. It’s composed of soft sandy ash like particles which travel through wind and water interfering with animal, human life and the entire environment. During strong winds the particles are blown around and it looks like it is raining white shining dust. The dump's west edge has terrifying highly polluted waste water dams. When the white powder connects with water it forms something that looks like freezing ice (see picture below). Where ever the powder connects with the ground it causes serious havoc and nothing grows on it. The most affected communities are: Santa Village, Vosman community, Bubsection and Mpondozenkomo. The nearest houses particularly in Santa Village are most affected as their roof sheets are turning rusty and decaying. When you come close to the dump you can feel: skin irritation, eye irritation, breathing difficulties and headaches. Something needs to be done urgently to remove this dump”calcite ice

For their change project, Nthabiseng and Elvis are finding out as much as they can about the chemical composition and environmental impacts of the dump, with the intention of sharing this information with the affected communities to raise awareness. They have collected samples of soil, water and dump particles, and have given them to their fellow Changing Practice course participants, Fhumulani Mathivha and Ivo Yves from Young Water Professionals, to test the samples. This is a great example of participants on the course working together cooperatively, using their different skills and resources to bring about change.

They are also looking at the legal status of the dump, at what is required to bring about removal of the dump, rehabilitation of the land and water, and compensation for the affected communities. In the course of their research, they have been inspired to take the lessons they are learning about the Highveld calcite waste dump and apply them to all legacy dumps.                                   

“We then realised there is a loop hole in managing existing and legacy  dumps in South Africa due to policy issues and as CULISA we are busy preparing a draft policy frame work on proper management of all existing and legacy dumps in the Republic of South Africa.”

CULISA, you are doing such important, courageous work. Well done, and thank you.