Clewer in Witbank, Emalahleni is a small location also known as Kwamthunzi Vilakazi. This community has been complaining about the pollution that comes from Transalloys mine which is situated 500 metres away from the community. Transalloys produces silicon manganese for world markets and is owned by Renova mining industries, a Russian company that invested in South Africa.

On 06 September 2015 we met a resident of Clewer, Mr. Christopher Nel, a 54 year old who was an environmental officer at Transalloys for 22 years and has been residing in Witbank for about 28 years. He said “ this company is killing us, I know the danger of the smoke that comes from that company, now they have fabricated the medium carbon ferromanganese which is dangerous to our health because when their pelletizing furnace is not working, they release all the smoke into the air. They do not get permission to do that and the industries are paying us to kill us”.

He continued “proper procedures must be followed because sometimes one will think there is a mist but it’s the white smoke that comes from the furnaces when they burn the manganese with other chemicals”.

According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC)  (www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/welding/), inhaled manganese is a serious danger because it bypasses the body’s normal defence mechanism. This can lead to lung, liver, kidney and central nervous system diseases. The CDC says “ Male workers exposed to manganese also are in a higher risk of fertility problems. Prolonged exposure to high manganese concentration in the air may lead to parkinsonian syndrome; this disease can cause slowness of movement, muscle rigidity and poor balance to humans.”

We have tried to get Mr. Ephraim the environmental officer of Transalloys for comment but the security guard told us he was highly occupied for the whole month and we were given his office number but the phone was not answered.

By: Thabo Ncube