Medical waste now found in gold mine

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pretoria - Green Scorpions have discovered 20 tons of medical waste buried at an unused Harmony Gold mine in Welkom.

The Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), known as the Green Scorpions, found the sharps, pharmaceuticals, vials, syringes, drips, used bandages and general medical waste had been buried at the site instead of being treated and disposed of as is required by law.

The Green Scorpions conducted the search on the property on Wednesday after they received further information in their ongoing investigation into illegally dumped medical waste at the Welkom Showgrounds and a farm 25 kilometres outside of Welkom.

The Department for Environmental Affairs said it was investigating links between the burial of medical waste at the Welkom sites and the latest one.

"The area is not located near to any communities or sensitive environmental areas and Harmony Gold has taken responsibility for ensuring that the area is secured and cannot be accessed by the public," the department said on Thursday.

It warned that illegal burial of medical waste was in contravention of a number of provisions of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act which came into effect on 3 July 2009.

The maximum penalties for committing such offences are R10 million or 10 years imprisonment or both.

"Compliance notices have been served in relation to the sites discovered last week in order to ensure the clean-up and rehabilitation of these sites," the department said.

A similar notice would be issued in relation to the Harmony Gold Mine site, the department said