Pumula residents choke on dust and broken promises

Residents in Ward 17, Pumula, have bemoaned the environmental and air pollution challenges they are subjected to due to mining activities in their community, posing a threat to their health and well-being.

The residents were speaking during a community meeting hosted by Accountability Lab on Thursday aimed at discussing the effects of urban mining in their area.

The community is home to a Chinese-owned firm, Hualin Investments (Pvt) Limited, which has been mining quarry since 2021.

“The activities at the mine are negatively affecting our environment,” one resident said. “One of the greatest challenges we face is the degradation of our roads. The mine has heavy trucks that use our roads. We have four main roads here: one goes via police, the other has been dilapidated for a while now (going via Malindela), we have a main road that most kombis now use, and the last one is a new one that goes via Amaswazi, which they (miners) have also discovered. At the rate they abuse our roads, we will soon have none left.”

“We also have the challenge of air pollution. As we know, trees are supposed to give us oxygen. But the blasting and mining activities are causing a lot of dust. If you take a walk in areas close to the mine, you will discover that all our trees there are covered in dust. What about the air that we breathe, which we cannot determine how much dust hangs on it? Imagine how that is going to affect us.”

Another resident raised concerns that their ward houses peri-urban areas where residents rear livestock, which is also affected by the pollution.

“We have St. Peters and Mazwi. People who live there have livestock, but no one cares about how these animals are affected by the pollution from the mines. Trees and grass are covered by dust from the mines, and so are the open water sources where the animals get water to drink. In the long run, we will have no people and no livestock to talk of if this health hazard is not addressed,” she said.

The residents complained that apart from the possible health hazards emanating from the pollution, they feel they are being shortchanged on what they were promised to benefit from the mine.

“When these negotiations started, it was around the COVID-19 years and there were limitations to calling physical meetings with people,” said Nqobizitha Moyo, Pumula Community Leader.

“I was one of the people who were assigned to be on the forefront of these negotiations. We engaged schools, various stakeholders, and the community at large. We were told that this would bring development and we were elated that our children would get job opportunities.”

“We feel cheated because years later, not even one school child is getting a bursary from the mine for school fees, our children are not getting any jobs from the mine. Instead, these people are only taking from us and giving nothing in return.”

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