GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cape Town
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


While the mining industry contributes significantly to the economies of developing countries around the world, mining activities have notable negative environmental and health impacts. Among these, the dust emitted by mining and its associated operations is a cause of increasing concern. Apart from impacting the health of mine-workers who breathe in mineral dust particles, dust is emitted from open pit mines, ore processing and metal extraction plants, ore stockpiles, ore transport containers and mine waste deposits, impacting the wider environment and communities. Lung diseases caused or exacerbated by mine dust exposure include silicosis (caused by inhaling quartz or crystalline silica), black lung disease (caused by inhaling coal dust) and tuberculosis (silica dust exposure increases the risk of pulmonary TB, particularly in gold miners). This places a huge burden on already-strained public health and social security systems.
Occupational health hazards from mining are well documented, and the link between dust and lung disease was recently recognised in a class action lawsuit against the six main mining houses in South Africa, awarded in favour of mine workers who contracted silicosis and TB working on gold mines between March 1965 and May 2018 (https://www.silicosissettlement.co.za/). However, the health effects associated with environmental dust emissions, although frequently a concern expressed by communities and community support organisations, have not been rigorously studied. Meaningful data is needed to inform what strategies and policies will work best to mitigate the effects of mine dust on communities living near mines and mine dumps, the populations of which number in their millions. Gathering such data is not simple, however. There are many complexities involved, with dust sources and their effects being influenced by inter-related factors covering the health, economic, social, geological, environmental, engineering, management, and political spheres. The issues associated with mine dust are also frequently contentious and involve diverse stakeholders and interested and affected parties with different, and often conflicting priorities. Poor engagement and communication between experts and lay persons, disciplinary silos and polarised viewpoints have made it difficult to develop a holistic understanding of the complex health issues associated with environmental emissions of mine dusts, and consequently to design meaningful and integrated approaches to address such issues.
It is these challenges that our GCRF MINE DUST AND HEALTH NETWORK will seek to address by bringing together researchers, stakeholders and practitioners from a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds to identify sources, challenges and potential mitigation opportunities associated with public health effects from dust pollution arising from mining activities. Focus will be on integrating and sharing knowledge and information across different disciplines and stakeholders on potential source and dispersion pathways; potential risks to the environment and the health, quality of life and livelihoods of mining-affected communities; monitoring methods and practices; measures to manage dispersion and impacts; stakeholder engagement and communication; and governance policies, standards and regulations.
Ultimately, the GCRF Mine Dust and Health network will serve as a collaborative think-tank to inform research directions both within and across disciplines; government policy and regulations; health monitoring programmes at public clinics; industry best practice; and community healthcare and impact prevention programmes across southern Africa and, as the Network expands, the globe.

Planned Impact

Mining is essential to the economies of many southern African countries. However, the industry also has many drawbacks, most notably its contribution to air, soil and water pollution. A major problem in all mining-intensive developing countries is the amount of dust generated by mining activities, particularly from the thousands of abandoned and un-rehabilitated mine dumps around which millions of people live. Mine dust contains fine mineral particles that when inhaled can cause lung disease and other respiratory problems like asthma. It can also contaminate soil and vegetation, including along roads and railway lines on which mine ore is transported. The most notable connection between mine dust and health is in mineworkers, who suffer the triple epidemic of silicosis (lung disease caused by inhaling quartz or crystalline silica), tuberculosis, and HIV. The GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network aims to contribute to meaningful and implementable solutions to the adverse health effects of mine dust, through engaging with academics, policy makers, communities and industry within a global engagement network. The impact of the network's activities will be felt at first by four southern African countries that will be initial members of the network: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique. However, as the network grows through an open membership policy, it will positively impact the health and environment of mining-intensive developing countries throughout Africa, South America and Asia.

The network will benefit specifically:

Vulnerable communities will benefit directly from community awareness programmes designed to raise awareness of the critical health issues and how adverse effects can be mitigated. This will empower communities to engage on specific issues on an informed basis, which has a greater potential to derive meaningful improvements.

Regional policymakers that balance the interest of stakeholders will gain greater clarity on the scale of impacts, an increased understanding of the key technical issues, and a greater appreciation of the context of different stakeholders. Involvement of regional representatives from South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique will provide a broader geographic context.

Misalignment between stakeholders on the key issues and policy direction consume unnecessary resources and effort with little benefits to vulnerable communities. Improved alignment will ensure that time is not lost finding common ground and implementation focus, due to the protection of narrow interests and stakeholder specific perspectives.

The network will enable the sharing of knowledge by connecting academics across the UK and southern Africa (and, eventually, globally) around a common cause. Academics will have free access to resources and data used in the process. Aspirant academics will be exposed to the subject matter and will receive mentorship to grow their careers and take future leadership roles in the field, prolonging the impact of the Network.

Southern African society will benefit from a reduced health cost burden and increased economic production that is expected from improved policy and the implementation of mitigation measures. This will make a valued contribution to an already burdened society and economy that can ill-afford additional constraints. This network model's rollout to other ODA countries would provide similar impacts in their societies.


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Description One of the key objectives of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Mine Dust and Health Network is to facilitate a shared and common understanding of the inter-related health risks and mitigation opportunities relating to mine dust. In this regard, the interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral workshop held in September 2019, and attended by 49 delegates from across South Africa and Zambia, identified four priority research areas of key relevance to mine dusts and its impacts, namely (i) exposure and health (ii) monitoring and measuring (iii) stakeholder awareness and education and (iv) mitigation and innovation.
Expert presentations and group discussions on the perceptions and understandings in terms of the current challenges and potential solutions to address such, highlighted the inter-related and complex nature these issues. The generation of reliable data on the exposure and health effects of mine dust through adequate monitoring and measuring for instance is of key underpinning importance. Although much research has been conducted in the area of occupational health and exposure, there is still inadequate data and information on the sources, toxic levels and health effects of environmental exposure to dust from mining related activities. In particular, the relationship between the physicochemical properties of dust particles and their health effects remains largely unknown, with regulatory limits and health risk assessments remaining largely concerned with mass concentrations, rather than the inherent dust properties. Furthermore, it is unknown how the different exposures interact and how exposure is influenced by social factors such as housing, poverty, access to water and environmental factors. This is particularly relevant to developing (low to upper middle income) countries, characterised by high levels of informal settlements and artisanal mining activities which exacerbate dust generation and exposure effects, and make regulation and management of such more difficult. The general consensus is that there is a need for more extensive and long-term surveillance of mining-related dust exposure and health effects in these high risk and vulnerable communities. In this regard, current gravitational sampling methods for monitoring and regulating dust, whilst relatively inexpensive, are outdated and unsatisfactory. Furthermore, even where installed, the maintenance of air quality measuring stations is often poor, and the interpretation of generated data inadequate. Technological advancements in instrumentation and in data management systems create opportunities to establish a network of affordable sensors that can generate extensive and detailed databases and facilitate more reliable source-exposure mapping, particularly in mining communities located in underdeveloped countries. This, in in turn, can inform more meaningful regulations and control measures, and potentially address current concerns among health practitioners as to whether existing regulatory standards are adequate to ensure safe environments. Apart from meaningful legislation and regulatory standards, delegates also highlighted the need for a consistent and well enforced regulatory system. It was noted that even where comprehensive legislation is in place, policies and regulations and are generally poorly aligned even within, but more particularly across, national governments. The importance of on-going multi-stakeholder engagement and involvement was highlighted as being essential across all mine-dust related priority areas, particularly in monitoring and measurement, and in the co-development and co-design of policy and mitigation interventions. Such stakeholders should cover all affected and involved communities, including people living in the vicinity of mines and along ore transport routes, miners themselves, policy makers and regulators, civil society organisations, researchers etc, many of whom may have different, and sometimes conflicting, priorities. Civil society is considered to have an important role to play in holding industry and regulators to account, backed by strong advocacy and judiciary. Civil society organisations can also play a key role in supporting communities to conduct their own research, using tools such as low-cost sensors (citizen science approaches). The active involvement of stakeholders in decision and policy-making, however, requires that they have access to relevant knowledge and information. Knowledge sharing and awareness building among stakeholders is thus essential. Finally, it was recognised that evidence-based policy and practical interventions need to be based on a consolidated programme of research which spans across the disciplines, and takes into account the different perspectives, priorities and issues
Another key objective of this network is to expand the networks sphere of influence and connect with other relevant networks, with initial focus on Southern African countries. In this regard, a number of professionals and organisations with specific interest and expertise in the area of mine dust have been identified, and engaged with, in the initial months of this initiative. Of particular significance is the Extractives and Health Group (EHG) of the Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET), a multi-sectoral advocacy group within the region who aim to serve as an equity catalyst to promote and realise shared values of equity and social justice in health in the region. The EGH comprises members from trade unions and NGOs from a number of ODA countries, including South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Other key South African groups with common and/or complimentary interests that have been identified as collaborators include the Saldanha Bay Clean Air Association and the National Association of Clean Air (NACA). Both these groups are concerned with protecting local environments and communities by preventing anthropogenic air pollution, and have extended and multi-sectoral member cohorts. Furthermore, two international research groupings have been identified as having relevant expertise and experience, both specifically on coal dust related health impacts. These include the Minerals Industry Safety & Health Centre at the University of Queensland, Australia, and the interdisciplinary consortium of 10 institutions from UK, Poland, Slovenia, Germany and Spain involved in the EU sponsored project on Reducing Risks from Occupational Exposure to Coal Dust (ROCD). Apart from knowledge-sharing, collaboration with these groups has the potential to contribute to building or enhancing research capacity of research institutions within ODA countries.
Exploitation Route The preliminary findings emerging from the workshop are designed to inform various stakeholder "communities" and sectors of the concerns and challenges currently associated with mine dust in the context of health, and to provide ideas on the potential alternatives available to them in terms of impact mitigation. Such information will be of specific interest and relevance to (i) researchers and experts in a number of fields including public heath, data management, air quality/pollution, mine rehabilitation, social justice, law etc (ii) local and national governments, including regulators and policy makers, (iii) mining industry and industry consultants, (iv) impacted communities and community support organisations, and (v) public health practitioners.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL http://minedust.org/
Description In terms of social impact, the overarching goal of the GCRF Mine Dust & Health network is to improve the quality of life, health and environment of communities impacted by mine dust, though raising stakeholder awareness, working with governments and industry to address pollution, and informing research directions to mitigate effects. This is of particular relevance to mining-intensive developing countries within Africa, Asia and South America where mining and the transport of mined materials frequently occurs in close proximity to human settlements and in fact often serves as a catalyst for the development of both formal and informal human settlements. Initial focus will be on ODA countries within Southern Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique, all of which have significant problems with mine dust related diseases. Apart from the direct social impact, the network is also expected to have indirect economic impacts, by reducing the cost burden of disease which is frequently borne by the public sector health and social security systems, and by also preventing disability and loss of employment opportunities which further entrench poverty and underdevelopment in mining communities. Apart from the local, national and regional impacts, this network, in focusing on health effects of mining activities, directly addresses SDG 3(Good Health and Well-Being), with links to SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption & Production), SDG 15 (Life on Land), SDG 16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). As this project is still in the relatively early stages, it is difficult to measure or gauge direct social and economic impact to date. However, significant progress has been made in terms of engaging with different advocacy groups active in a number of Southern African Countries (including the Saldanha Bay Clean Association in South Africa and the Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa, EQUINET), professional bodies (e.g. the National Association of Air Quality in South Africa) and representatives from a number of sectors within both South Africa and Zambia. In this period the network membership list has grown to 96 members representing industry, academia, national and local government, community support and advocacy groups and public health) across 4 ODA countries (South Africa, Brazil, Namibia and Zambia), and 3 non-ODA countries (Australia, Germany and United Kingdom). Furthermore, the management team recognises that demographic change, particularly in developing countries, is necessary as a corrective action in respect of past injustices, and that diversity is critical to achieve the aims and maximise the effectiveness of the network. To this end, the management is committed to the goal of non-racialism and gender equity. Currently the core management team (director, co-director and manager) are all female, with the nine steering group members comprising 4 females (44%) females and 3 different ethnic groups. Of the 96 network members, 40 (42%) are female, and this statistic was also reflected within the delegation of the first working group meeting. In order to further promote gender equity in this traditionally male-dominated area, 4 out of 5 of the appointed network theme leaders are currently female. The management team is maintaining a record of member demographics and affiliations at all levels of activity, in order to identify and address any observed imbalances in representation, in terms of gender, race as well as sector and discipline.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Extractives and Health Group of EQUINET 
Organisation The Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa
Country Zimbabwe 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Contribution is largely in terms of knowledge and information, and associated resources. Such knowledge is to be imparted through attendance and active participation at working groups, such as the Regional Meeting of the Extractives and Health Group on 1-2 February 2020, by the project director (Associate Professor Broadhurst) and Deputy Director (Associate Professor Shahieda Adams), who gave a presentation on the visible and hidden health risks of mining.
Collaborator Contribution The Extractives and Health Group of EQUINET and its members serve as an advocacy group in the area of social justice in health associated with the extractives sector within Eastern and Southern Africa. Main activities and contributions relate to the gathering, sharing and communication of knowledge and information, and the coordination and promotion of activities to address observed injustices. This collaboration has enabled new perspectives and activities pertaining to mine dust across a wider range of stakeholders and countries.
Impact A report on the regional meeting of the Extractives and Health Group held on 1-2 February 2020 has been issued, outlining the objectives, contributions and outputs of the working group meeting.
Start Year 2020
Description National Association of Clean Air (NACA) 
Organisation National Association for Clean Air
Country South Africa 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The network provides input into NACA activities and was the major sponsor for the annual conference held In Oct 2019.
Collaborator Contribution NACA invites the network to participate in their events, allowing the network influence to grow.
Impact New members have signed up as a result of the exposure we have received from NACA. Students and emerging researchers were sponsored to attend the conference and this provided the opportunity for extensive engagement between experts and students and researchers.
Start Year 2019
Description University of Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Johanna von Holdt is a convener in the session on Anthropogenic dust for the International Conference on Aeolian Research to be held in July in Namibia. Prof Wiggs is the organiser of the conference.The network is providing sponsorship to the conference and for students and researchers to attend the conference. Students and members went through an application process which was concluded at the end of February.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Wiggs is a member of the steering committee and also the organiser of ICAR in July. He has made the network part of the conference by providing Johanna with valuable convening experience, accepting sponsorship with the aim to promote the network and its activities.
Impact Johanna forms part of an international team of scientists who are convening a session and have reviewed all relevant abstracts.
Start Year 2020
Description University of Zambia School of Mines 
Organisation University of Zambia
Country Zambia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Through the GCRF network, researchers and students at UNZA are exposed to multi-disciplinary and sectoral perspectives on mine dust. Support of students and emerging researchers from UNZA is provided by the GCRF Mine Dust & Health network in the form of financial assistance to enable attendance of GCRF network meetings and in the form mentorship to support research activities.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Jewette Masinja of the University of Zambia School of Mines is part of the GCRF steering committee, and brings a range of perspectives on the pollution impacts, management and governance of mine dust to this network. He is also in a strong position to help to expand the network, to provide student mentoring, and to participate in further collaborative funding applications and programmes
Impact UNZA delegates participated in the GCRF Mine Dust & Health workshop, held in Cape Town in September 2019, the outcomes of which have been published on the network website.
Start Year 2019
Description Meeting of the Extractives and Health Group (EHG) of the Regional Network in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The EQUINET workshop on health literacy for the mining and extractive sector involved trade unions, ex-mineworkers, health and economic justice civil society organisations and academics representing Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Lesotho and Eswatini. The objectives of this meeting were to consolidate the Extractives and Health Group for an alliance on follow-up actions and shared priorities. More specifically this meeting set out to:
• Share information on mining and health in the region in terms of the risks, responses, rights and actions
• Review activities on health literacy in mining and use of the EQUINET health literacy module on Mining and health
• Review the work of the mining and health working group and its members in various platforms and proposed work on extractives and health equity in the region and identify priorities, alliances, actions and roles for follow up
• Identify issues to take forward in the Alternative Mining Indaba and other regional platforms
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.equinetafrica.org/content/meetings
Description National Clean Air Association (NACA) conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The network provided funding for this conference held in Stellenbosch from 3 -4 October, as well as sponsoring 2 members and 4 students to attend this conference. The Director of the network presented the network and its objectives to the delegates with a talk entitled "GCRF Mine dust and Health Network: a collaborative, inter-disciplinary think-tank".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.naca.org.za/conference.php
Description Network inaugural meeting and open forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Our annual GCRF Mine Dust and Health Workshop was held from 11 to 12 September 2019 and attracted more than 40 participants from various sectors, including academia, industry, government and civil society. This event started with presentations from experts on the status quo of mine dust and then moved into a facilitated discussion on identifying the main research themes and the main challenges that should be tackled first. Day two involved working group discussions along the main themes identified previously. Some important outcomes of the working group sessions were the identification of research projects, funding sources and individuals that want to be involved in formulating proposals around these projects.

Presentations included:
1. MINE DUST AS A HUMAN RIGHT'S ISSUE IN THE EMERGING FRAME OF THE INTERNATIONAL RIGHT TO ENVIRONMENT - Prof Tracy-Lynn Humby, Professor of Law and Consultant, The University of the Witwatersrand
2. LIVING IN A HAZE: MINE DUST AND HEALTH - Dr Shahieda Adams, Co-director of the Dust Network and physician at Groote Schuur (UCT), as well as a senior lecturer in Occupational Health Physician
4. DUST MANAGEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA: REGULATOR'S - Olebogeng Matshediso: The Deputy Director for Atmospheric Policy, Norms and Standards, Department of Environmental Affairs
6. REGULATORY MODELLING OF MINE DUST IN SOUTH AFRICA - Roelof Burger - North West University, Senior Lecturer, Unit for Environmental Science and Management, and part of the Climatology Research Group
8. WORKING TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE AMBIENT AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT FROM PIT TO PORT IN KWAZULU NATAL - DEVELOPING FRAMEWORK FOR AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT FOR THE PORTS. - Litha Dalindyebo - Transnet - Senior manager for risk department at Transnet port terminals, and does resreach for air quality for Transnet - PhD Canidtate UKZN
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://minedust.org/gcrf2019/
Description Visiting researcher from University of Queensland (Nikki LaBranch) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Nikky LaBranche is an Industry Fellow at the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) in the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), The University of Queensland. She is currently working on her PhD Characterising the Impact of Dust on the Respiratory Health of Coal Mine Workers. Nikki was invited as a guest to the University of Cape Town for discussions about potential collaborations, a presentation to network members on the work she is doing in Australia and engagement with other postgraduate students for information sharing and capacity building.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Workshop at the Saldanha Bay Clean Air Association in Saldanha Bay 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The network was invited by the Saldanha Bay Clean Air Association to give a talk and take part on discussions about the challenges this area is facing due to the transport, handling and storage of mineral ore for export. The community is concerned about the state of the bay and their health as a result of current operations and future developments earmarked for this port terminal. We were invited to educate and inform the community and industry regarding the legislation and the required monitoring that is and should be done. Dr Johanna von Holdt gave a presentation. Both Johanna and Prof Broadhurst took part in discussions as part of this workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019