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Asbestos, the silent killer

10 August 2012, 09:51

ASBESTOS THE SILENT KILLERThis article has been written as a result of another similar article appearing on NEWS 24   (9/9/2012)

During 1973 I worked on an asbestos mine, Koegas Asbes myn about 20km from Marydale and Marydale is about 75km from Prieska. As a new employee I did not know the ropes and accepted the poor conditions as they were. My work area comprised the surface reduction plant and the underground workings. The surface reduction plant was falling to pieces due to age and lack of maintenance.

The ventilation piping was holed over large areas and the fine reject fibres were released into the atmosphere to the extent the air became difficult to see through due to the dust and fibres. Management was request to supply the workers with “nose bags” but we were told to pay for them. Requests were made for the holed ducting to be repaired but it fell onto deaf ears too.      

Workers were lodged in hostels while those married(unskilled) lived in houses close to the mine. Artisans and miners were housed in a village some distance from the plant.     

On windy days the fine dust and fibres was blown over the entire mining area. And appeared as a dark cloud.. No effort was made, whatsoever to water some of the critical areas down to allay the dust and on request nothing was done. Estimates were shown at that time that the dust generated at Koegas brug mine could be blown all the way to Prieska, 75km away.

The mine has a local clinic which catered for most of the minor injuries on the mine and too, for the families of the workers.

Long service workers remained accommodated on the mine and in many cases the bread winner could not work due to asbestos related diseases. In such cases the children of the bread winner was employed on the mine to generate at least some income to aid the parents. It is not know if the mine paid the sufferers a pittance. The mine had a curious method of retaining the employees. Many of the old and retired hands remained on the premises while their better educated children worked for the mine and gradually worked their way up to better positions.    

With hindsight it is easy to blame the mine for the cases of death and permanent disability due to asbestos induced diseases. That was in 1773 but since then there has been a revolution in the entire mining industry. The missing l8ink at that time was a management which was not farsighted enough to predict the future. People in Prieska and those closer are still dying as a result of short-sightedness      

At the time the mine was operated by a British company. Referred to as Cape Blue Mines. The mine and this company no longer exists.
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