Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Mine disease

Khayisile Matsaba

“The mine flu” popularly known as Silicosis, continues to wreak havoc among the people of Nyakallong in Allanridge. It is a long-term lung disease caused gradually by inhaling large quantities of crystalline silica dust from substances such as stone, rock, sand, and clay. Before the introduction of mining to our communities, people had no slight idea of what silicosis is. After the introduction of the Lorraine Gold Mine in 1951, that’s when people started getting sick from respiratory problems.

A chest hospital was built by Lorraine Gold Mine as a means of curbing the spread of tuberculosis and also to cater for the needs of those who suffered from silicosis. Things took a turn for the worst when Phakisa took over the mining operation, the hospital was closed and the people of Nyakallong had to bear the brunt of living with all sorts of respiratory diseases. The building was demolished in 2022 and everything was left to ruin.

One old man who is a former mine employee who wished to remain anonymous had this to say “Working for the mine was the most regrettable decision I ever took. During my working days there I caught this silicosis, I have consulted one doctor after another but nothing has changed. I’m just waiting for my deathbed and the mine only heard my plight last year after all these years since I retired. Their compensation can never bring back my health”.

Mine workers are not the only ones who are hard hit by this calamity, women and young children are bearing the emotional scars of witnessing their fathers and elder brothers deteriorating with each day that goes by. Women are forced to leave their jobs and take care of their husbands who suffer from mine-related occupational diseases.

All they do is to pay them once in a while when they want to but what boggles the mind is how long will this go on?

The closure of the chest hospital didn’t only affect the people who suffered from tuberculosis and silicosis, some nurses were forced into early retirement, cleaners, general workers, and porters who were retrenched. The taxis that were transporting people to and from work also had to abandon their business. Unemployment is on the rise and the future is not promising for young people.