Assessment of potential toxic influence of uranium trial mining in the Karoo uranium province
An assessment of uranium trial mining on four mining sites in the Karoo Uranium Province, South Africa revealed localised above-background values for U, Mo, Pb, Cu, As and Fe in surface - and ground water, soils, sediment and crops. Inadequate remedial action on cessation of mining activities in 1980 led to the presence of uranium ore in stockpiles, open pits, mining shafts, mining equipment and waste dumps within featured areas. Heavy metal contamination is suppressed by the lack of run–off and the dry climate experienced within the mining areas. However, the heavy metal content in surface water and sediment within the open pits on Rietkuil and Mooifontein is especially high. These values pose a risk for human ingestion and may cause cancer in the long term or renal damage over the short term. These pits are easily accessed, lack a fence and are used for a drinking medium by fauna and as a growth medium for flora. The easily accessed Cameron Shaft on Ryst Kuil is a matter of concern due to the possible presence of the radioactive inert gas, radon. Farm owners were unaware of the possible toxic effects of uranium and coherent heavy metals. This led to previous usage of mine water for crop irrigation, the moving and feeding of livestock as well as wildlife amongst uranium ore stockpiles, swimming in water-filled open pits and using crushed uranium ore for gravel road maintenance and construction. The presence of uranium ore in stockpiles and the coherent effects on the water, soils, sediment, fauna and flora and possibly man, prioritises the remediation and rehabilitation of the of uranium trial mining sites within the Karoo Uranium Province.