Monthly Archives: January 2019

Vale dam collapse

An article from about the recent collapse of the Vale dam in Brazil.

Vale dam collapse

Vale dam collapse: Panic after fresh alert at another mine in Brumadinho
Cecilia Jamasmie

An alarm warning of an imminent mining dam rupture was issued on Sunday morning near Brumadinho, the same Brazilian community where the collapse of a dam at Vale’s (NYSE:VALE) Córrego do Feijão mining complex on Friday killed at least 58, while more than 400 are still missing.

The alert of “dangerously high water levels” at another dam that is part of the same mining complex in south-east Brazil, went off at 5:30am on Sunday

Local media reported that a loudspeaker alarm announced an evacuation of the area affected by Friday’s dam collapse, which has a population of 39,000 people. “Find the highest point in the city,” the warning said. Late on Sunday, authorities called off the alarm and evacuation of residents in the town of Brumadinho.

Friday’s accident panicked locals who still have vivid memories of the deadly dam failure at Samarco, BHP and Vale’s joint venture, which killed 19 people in 2015 and became the country’s worst ever environmental disaster.

“No lessons were learned from the Mariana tragedy,” Greenpeace Brazil campaign coordinator Nilo D’Avila told JovenPam. “It’s the same company and the same kind of accident.”

Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said the dam at the Feijão mine had a capacity of 12 million cubic metres, far less than the 50 million cubic metres Samarco’s one had in 2015. He added the facility was being decommissioned and that equipment had shown the dam was stable on Jan. 10.

While the Samarco disaster dumped about five times more mining waste, Feijão’s dam break has already killed more people, as the torrent of sludge hit Vale’s local offices, including a crowded cafeteria, and tore through a populated area downhill.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the devastated zone on Saturday, later tweeting that it was “difficult to not be emotional before this scene”. He said all efforts were being made to care for survivors and “determine the facts, to demand justice and prevent new tragedies.”

The same day, the country’s National Mining Agency on Saturday ordered Vale to suspend operations at the mine and Minas Gerais state prosecutors entered a motion to freeze 5 billion reais ($1.3 billion) in the company’s accounts for handling damages. It’s expected that more funds will be frozen in days to come.

The military said it deployed 1,000 soldiers, including sniffer dogs, to the disaster zone.

The Feijão mine is part of Vale’s southern system operations, which is made up of three mines and two ports and accounts for about a quarter of the company’s iron ore output.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

What your dust says about you

“Dust talks”, says Emily Anthes.  Have a read and see what it’s saying!


New Yorker

Our Dust, Ourselves

By – Emily Anthes

“Dust talks. That clump of gray fuzz hiding under the couch may look dull, but it contains multitudes: tiny errant crumbs of toast, microscopic fibres from a winter coat, fragments of dead leaves, dog dander, sidewalk grit, sloughed-off skin cells, grime-loving bacteria. “Each bit of dust is a microhistory of your life,” Rob Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University, told me recently. For the past four years, Dunn and two of his colleagues—Noah Fierer, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Holly Menninger, the director of public science at N.C. State—have been deciphering these histories, investigating the microorganisms in our dust and how their lives are intertwined with our own.

The scientists began with a small pilot study, recruiting forty families in the Raleigh-Durham area to swab nine locations in their homes. When the researchers analyzed these cotton swabs and sequenced the fragments of bacterial DNA that they contained, they found that even the most sparkling houses were teeming with microbial squatters—more than two thousand distinct types, on average. Different rooms formed distinct ecological niches: kitchens were popular among the bacteria that grow on produce, whereas bedroom and bathroom surfaces were colonized by those that typically dwell on the skin. (In a troubling discovery, Dunn and his colleagues learned that, from a microbiological perspective, toilet seats and pillowcases look strikingly similar.)

In many ways, these findings were predictable. What the researchers had some difficulty making sense of was the variation that they observed between homes. “What, really, is determining what lives in your house versus my house?” Dunn asked. To answer that question, they expanded the study to a larger, more diverse set of homes—about eleven hundred in total, from across the continental United States—and asked volunteers to swab the trim around their interior doorways. “We focussed on that because nobody ever cleans it,” Fierer told me. “Or we don’t clean it very often—maybe you’re an exception.” (I am not.) To provide a point of comparison, each volunteer also collected dust from an exterior door and then mailed the samples to Fierer’s Colorado lab.

Fierer and his team isolated, amplified, and sequenced the DNA that was present in each sample, listing the types of bacteria and fungi that they found. The list soon grew long. “The diversity was just crazy,” Dunn said. In total, the indoor dust contained more than sixty-three thousand species of fungi and a hundred and sixteen thousand species of bacteria. For the fungi, location was king. Houses in eastern states had different fungal communities than those in western ones. Ditto homes in humid climates compared with those in dry ones. In fact, the geographic correlation was so strong that Dunn and Fierer have since shown, in a separate paper, that they can use fungal DNA to determine, to within about a hundred and fifty miles, where in the United States a dust sample originated. If scientists can narrow this geographic range—and Dunn expects that they can—it could prove a useful forensic tool. “Imagine you get a box from somewhere, it’s got something suspicious in it, and you want to be able to identify where that suspicious thing might have come from,” Dunn said. “This is actually a pretty easy way to do that.”

Bacterial communities, on the other hand, were shaped less by a home’s location than by its occupants. “We’re really the dominant sources—us and our pets are the dominant sources—of bacteria inside homes,” Fierer said. The fur factor loomed especially large. Dogs introduced unique drool and fecal microbes into a home and tracked in soil dwellers from outside. Cats also changed a home’s microbial makeup, but more modestly, perhaps because they are smaller and venture outside less often. By analyzing the bacterial DNA in dust, the researchers were able to predict whether a home contained a dog with ninety-two-per-cent accuracy and a cat with eighty-three-per-cent accuracy.

The sex of a home’s human occupants also played a role in shaping the indoor ecosystem. Lactobacillus_ _bacteria, which are a major component of the vaginal microbiome, were most abundant in homes in which women outnumbered men. When men were in the majority, however, different bacteria thrived: Roseburia, which normally lives in the gut, and Corynebacterium and Dermabacter, which both inhabit the skin. Corynebacterium is known to occupy the armpit and contribute to body odor. “Maybe it means that men’s houses smell more like armpits,” Dunn suggested. “That’s probably—microbially, that’s a fair assessment.” The findings may be due to sex differences in skin biology; men tend to have more Corynebacterium on their skin—and to shed more skin microbes into the environment—than women do. (In the paper, the researchers also acknowledge the possibility that a bachelor pad’s bacterial signature could be the result of “hygiene practices.”)

Most of our microscopic roommates are unlikely to present a real threat; many species of bacteria, scientists now know, are crucial partners in maintaining our health. “We’re surrounded by microbes all the time, and that’s not a bad thing,” Fierer said. In the next phase of their research, he and Dunn hope to identify connections between a home’s microscopic inhabitants and the health of its human ones. And there are likely to be more findings lurking in the dust that the volunteers already collected. How does the use of antimicrobial cleaning products alter a home’s profile? Is there a link between our genomes and the species that occupy our homes? There’s far more data than the scientists can analyze themselves, so they have posted it all online; members of the public can download the complete data set and hunt for new correlations and patterns. “We’ve just opened up this giant black box of what lives with us,” Dunn said. “In the last twelve thousand years, we all moved from being in houses that were more or less open to the environment to closed-up houses. And yet all of the indications we get are that they’re still full of life.” Even in the smallest studio apartment, we’re never truly alone.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Acid Mine Drainage

Always seeking ways to lessen the impact on our environment – here is an article on an issue facing Gauteng……..



“Acid mine drainage (AMD) is of great concern to the Gauteng Provincial Government, according to the State of Environment Report released by Gauteng Agriculture, Rural and Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza on Wednesday.

“Many of the water resources within the province are clearly under stress from an increased demand for human and commercial water consumption, coupled with poor management of water quality and degradation of river and wetland ecosystem.

“In addition, acid mine drainage associated with mining activities is the greatest current concern relating to groundwater resources,” said the MEC.

However, the findings of the report note that AMD can also be seen as an opportunity in the form of a valuable water resource if mitigate. It further indicated that Gauteng needed to invest in renewable energy and appropriate technologies.

The department has both immediate and long term solutions to the address the problem. Extreme progress is being made in treating the water on the Western basin and authorities will soon evaluate tenders for the central basin and work there should be getting under way soon.

Mayathula-Khoza said as with the 2004 provincial State of Environment Report, water remains a major issue for Gauteng for now and in the long term, adding that the province is still faced with a number of challenges before achieving environmental sustainability.

To be sustainable, she said, Gauteng must respond to climate change challenges, establish viable communities as well as create people-friendly urban settings.

“The relationship between people and the natural environment is important in a fast developing and highly urbanised world and Gauteng is no exception. It has been demonstrated that people become more reliant on the natural environment as poverty levels increase and that their vulnerability and lack of resilience has consequences leading to environmental degradation and increases in pollution,” she said.

However, over the last five years the province had made positive progress on a number of environmental indicators.

“Most notably is the dramatic reduction in lead concentrations from vehicle emissions during to tighter fuel regulation. Another noticeable improvement is that municipal drinking water quality management has significantly improved and Gauteng is currently the top performing province in terms of its Blue Drop rating,” she said.

According to the report, poor air quality remains a serious issue for the province as household fossil fuel, vehicle emissions and industrial processes cause high concentrations for air pollutants.

However, the MEC said Air Quality Management had been developed for various municipalities and monitoring provided sound scientific basis for decision making and enforcement actions.

“Air Quality Management is an extremely important issue for Gauteng to deal with as it directly impacts on human health and climate change,” she said.

The report also identified that recycling and efficient water use were unavoidable and as a basic human right, it is a challenge for clean water to be provided to a populous province such as Gauteng.

The department, along with municipalities, implemented the Clean and Green Programme aimed at encouraging the municipalities to clear illegal dumping, develop communal parks in residential areas where illegal dumping is taking place.

The Clean and Green Programme launched in 2009 is a legacy project of Premier Nomvula Mokonyane aimed at ensuring that the province is clean and is beautified.

Through this programme, over 20 illegal dumping spots were rehabilitated across the province.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Fallout Dust Monitoring Training Course

Good day

The next Fallout Dust Monitoring course is in February 2019 in Pretoria.

12 – 14 February 2019 – Pretoria

The costs are in the attached files, R4400 per person per day.

If you would like to attend or to send a representative, then please email or call 021 789 0847 or 082 875 0209 to reserve a place.

Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding any queries, comments, or suggestions.


Chris Loans

DustWatch CC – Precipitant Dust Monitoring

082 875 0209 or 021 789 0847 (Chris)

083 308 4764 (Gerry)

021 789 0847 (Cape Town)

011 083 8750 (Johannesburg)

+1 832 422 5031 (USA)

0866 181 421 (Fax – SA Only)


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Dangerous jobs

An interesting article on what jobs are considered dangerous and how that affects medical coverage….


Dangerous jobs: what is and is not covered by hospital plans?

Mining Safety 

“While some of us spend our working day in an office, others are living dangerously. Some jobs are more hazardous than others, such as mining, firefighting, being a paramedic or police officer. However, for those who need it most an affordable hospital plan is always available to people in these industries. What a hospital plan does and does not cover with regard to dangerous jobs is outlined below.


The mining industry has seen a 31 percent increase in injuries since 2016, with 73 miners dying in 2016. This makes it arguably one of the most dangerous professions on the market, which means that hospital plans in South Africa for miners are essential.

Mining companies are continually experiencing changing risks to the mine throughout its lifespan. Depending on where the mine is in its timeline can determine what an affordable hospital plan will need to cover for the workers. Some of the risks related to mining include entrapment, toxic gas inhalation and explosions. Having a sound hospital plan is essential for a profession as dangerous as this.


Firefighters are brave souls, willing to take on situations that would make most of us cringe in absolute fear. It is a highly dangerous job, and so it is often the case that the municipality provides a group scheme for the men and women who are employed by the fire department.

As for life insurance, this is up to the firefighter themselves to acquire. Every firefighter is provided with a worker’s compensation fund, a pension fund and a group life scheme. Because the pay may not be as high as it could be, an affordable hospital plan is a better choice for this profession than a comprehensive medical aid.

The police force

Being a part of the SAPS (South African Police Force) means that you are excluded from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. This also means that you will need to take out your own hospital plan or medical aid.

There is the option of becoming a part of a group medical scheme, but each municipal police station provides medical insurance for all their employees as per the Worker’s Compensation Fund guidelines. While police officers are covered by this insurance, having a hospital plan for extra cover is often common practice due to the highly volatile nature of the work involved in their daily lives. In 2017 alone, 57 policemen were killed in the line of duty.
Workers in the agricultural sector
While this may not seem like the most dangerous profession, increased exposure to the sun can increase skin cancer. Exposure to fertilisers and pesticides can also increase the risk of illnesses which are unique to the agricultural sector.

There are dedicated societies which offer medical aid to agricultural workers, but some farm owners choose to offer a hospital plan or group medical aid scheme for their workers. The risks involved with agricultural work include machinery-related injuries, the breathing-in of chemicals and severe sunburn. These injuries are covered by the group medical scheme offered by many hospital plans geared towards the industrial sector.

Paramedics and Emergency Services

Becoming a paramedic is no small feat. It is a job that is only chosen by the few who are passionate about helping others in the most dire of times. They find themselves in hazardous situations while attending to patients, and so need the best possible affordable hospital plan for themselves.

The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) provides these workers with protection against illness, injury and disease contracted in the workplace. However, some choose to have their own medical aid or hospital plan in place just to be sure that every eventuality is covered. Some EMS companies provide medical packages to their employees as part of a group scheme.


Car, truck or diesel mechanics have risky jobs. They are underneath vehicles all day, dealing with hazardous chemicals such as asbestos, which is found in brake fluid and clutch parts, and often breathe in oil and fumes while working.

Many institutions provide their employees with a medical aid package, making the financial load of their employees lighter and easier to handle. Some mechanics may have to get their own hospital plan that offers sufficient cover for possible work-related injuries. A comprehensive hospital plan is the best option for this position, as it will also cover day-to-day GP visits and medication if the need arises.


Having a dangerous job does not always mean that you are unable to find an affordable hospital plan. You will be able to find a plan that provides sufficient coverage for your profession if your employer does not offer a group scheme medical aid package. If you are interested in finding a job as a police officer, a firefighter or even a miner, then you should ensure that you are medically covered for any eventuality.”

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  May 2019 be a year of blessing in all areas.