Cape Town  -  Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma - Kuruman

Kuruman a small town in the Northern Cape has been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons. The town which was laid out in 1887 actually dates back to 1812 when the missionary Robert Moffat bought land from the Tlapin tribe to establish a mission station in the area.

From 1887 the town grew steadily and finally became a Municipality in 1916. It is named after a San Chief, Khuduman, who was killed on a hill overlooking the town by the Tlapin people. Kuruman has a second name which is Gasegonyana, meaning Small Calabash. The town boasts a few historical buildings and a church which was built in 1831 and still has mud floors and wooden beams supporting a thatched roof .

The Northern Cape region is rich in asbestos, manganese, haematite, crocidolite, iron and tiger eye. Since the discovery of the minerals, asbestos has been extensively mined, mainly near the towns of Prieska, Koega and Kuruman. Unbeknown to their inhabitants a monster was lurking in those mines and it was about to strike down many of them.

Mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, which has a 38 year latency period was that monster.

During the 1960's a research unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research began investigating the relationship between asbestos and cancer. It was discovered that the risk of death through asbestosis or mesothelioma and cancer of the stomach was severely increased in blue asbestos areas. Unfortunately for many residents and miners the discovery of the link has come too late. Hundreds of them have contracted illnesses caused by carcinogenic fibres stemming from the asbestos mines of the Northern Cape.

The whole region is heavily polluted with blue asbestos carcinogenic fibres that have been mined for decades with little or no regard for the safety of asbestos mine workers or their families. The effects of the mines will be felt for decades to come as hundreds, possibly thousands more people become ill and die from asbestos-related diseases. Good News! The authorities have stepped in and all asbestos mines have been closed down.

In certain instances mines were abandoned by owners fearing large claims from nearby communities who were suffering from asbestos induced illnesses. As these owners cannot be traced it has fallen to the Department of Minerals and Energy to rehabilitate the ownerless mines. They have spent in excess R5 million so far rehabilitating these mines. In total out of the 43 mines in the region 19 mines have been rehabilitated while 26 of them are still awaiting rehabilitation..

Where rehabilitation has taken place the veld has been returned to its original condition with grass pushing through the red earth that is found in the area. Unfortunately for people living near unrehabilitated mines the threat of mesothelioma still exists.

The community and especially the people who have contracted asbestos related diseases have decided not to the matter lying down. They have appointed legal council who have over the past number of years taken the matter of compensation up with the mines through the courts. A number of these cases have been successful and mines have been ordered to pay milllions of rands worth of compensation to people currently suffering from asbestos related ailments. Millions have also been set aside for people who might contract diseases in the future. For the region which could have benefited from the mines the legacy left behind by them is a trail of death as the silent stalker does its work in the community. Your prayers for the sick in these communites will be greatly appreciated.

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Cape Town - Mesothelioma