Monthly Archives: February 2022

Dust Storm in Aggeneys

In January of 2021 a major dust storm occurred in Aggeneys, South Africa.  Wondering where Aggeneys is??  It is a small town just outside of Pofadder in the Northern Cape Province.  It was established on a farm in 1976 as a mining town.

 

 

Aggeneys

DustWatch Cc conducted some training in the small town of Aggeneys recently.  Situation between Springbok and Pofadder this small mining town mining copper, zinc, silver and lead.

 

Image - experiencenortherncape.com

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/historyclimate/weatherarchive/aggeneys_south-africa_3370556?fcstlength=1m&year=2022&month=2

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/1000hPa/patterson=19.60,-29.00,21116/loc=18.870,-29.160

https://www.dustwatch.com/airqualitystandards.pdf

 

Burnout – stress and safety in the workplace

An insightful and helpful article from The Conversation.

Burnout

Source – https://theconversation.com/tackling-burnout-how-to-deal-with-stress-and-safety-in-the-workplace-161852
“Tackling burnout: How to deal with stress and safety in the workplace
June 14, 2021 7.59pm SAST
When I began working in disaster and emergency management, there was a funny anecdote suggesting the job was 98 per cent paperwork and two per cent adrenalin.
Looking around at my office environment, I failed to see much adrenalin. To make sense of this, I researched some major disasters and discovered that when they strike, emergency managers transition to working in emergency co-ordination centres. These nerve centres often look like something out of the movies, with people staring intently at their computers while large screens everywhere display critical information.
During the devastating Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016, which destroyed entire subdivisions and caused more than $1 billion in damage, I finally understood the “two per cent adrenalin” aspect of our work. For months, the work was non-stop and around the clock. Soon, I noticed the initial state of exhilaration was replaced by a state of exhaustion.
At that time, I was reminded of the 2004 book, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, written by Canadian physician Gabor Maté, that outlines the four most stressful stimuli: Lack of information, uncertainty, lack of control and conflict. I observed that during a disaster, all of these factors are present in droves.
In a disaster, critical decisions must be made with incomplete or contradictory information. Lack of control and uncertainty emerge when navigating policies, guidelines and laws. There’s often conflict with resource allocation and conflicting priorities.
Other notable factors include atypical working hours, extremes of activity and a sedentary work environment. While some features are unique to our profession, I’m under no illusion that we’re alone in our experiences. Many other professions and positions face similar challenges.
Exhaustion follows exhilaration
While short-term workplace stress is to be expected, the problem emerges with long-term sustained stress.
As Hungarian scientist Hans Selye described in 1950 in his seminal general adaptation syndrome about workplace stress, after sustaining a period of exhilaration, stressed employees eventually reach the exhaustion phase and can no longer sustain additional pressure. Today in my clinical psychology practice, my clients who work in various fields tell me about exhaustion, irritability, impatience, trouble concentrating and taking in new information and feeling under-appreciated at work, with some even contemplating quitting their jobs.
In 2019, the World Health Organization identified a syndrome it labelled “burnout” resulting from chronic workplace stress. Now people who report feeling depleted of energy or exhausted, mentally distanced from or cynical about their jobs and experiencing problems getting their work done can be diagnosed with a workplace injury.
Burnout as the result of workplace stress carries significant implications for employers. Canadian occupational health and safety standards require employers to protect the physical and mental health of their workers. If people are meeting the criteria for burnout, organizations may be neglecting their legislated duty to ensure psychologically safe workplaces.
Preventing, mitigating stress
The good news is something can be done. While it will require genuine organizational commitment, prevention and mitigation are key. But to get at the heart of the problem, we must first ask if employers are even tracking psychological safety in the workplace.
Of those that do, most merely encourage staff to exercise more, meditate, sleep better and eat a more balanced diet. This is, quite simply, passing the buck onto an already depleted workforce and does nothing to address the core of the problem. The answer is not to recommend Band-Aid solutions, suggesting employees try even harder in their downtime to compensate for organizational neglect.
For meaningful change, organizations must first implement clear policies reflecting their commitment to workplace mental health and psychological safety, and appoint a wellness champion and leaders who model these values.
The next step is identifying workplace hazards through employee engagement surveys, workplace risk assessments, incident investigations, exit interviews and disability claim data if available. Identifying controls to prevent psychological harm is also necessary.
Respectful workplace policies
Once hazards have been identified, prevention and mitigation measures must follow. Organizations must define and train employees on their duties and responsibilities, monitor workload, consider flexible work arrangements, clearly communicate priorities and ensure respectful workplace policies are understood and that managers who defy them are held accountable.
Organizations must address environmental risks by encouraging movement, breaks and getting sunlight. Finally, documenting and reporting hazards as a measure for ongoing program development is necessary because it helps inform company policy as part of holistic continuous improvement efforts.
Throughout the entire cycle, I remind organizational leaders to remain present to support staff through the execution of all tasks — and of the value in fostering happy and engaged teams.
Research shows that the highest performing workplace teams have one thing in common: psychological safety. When people feel safe, they are engaged and committed to their work, and this builds organizational resilience. Employers who manage to get ahead of the burnout curve will gain a distinct advantage over other organizations.”
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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Latest Dust Storm News

Two huge dust storms – one in the US and one in Uzbekistan
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Source – https://watchers.news/2021/12/16/dust-storm-colorado-nebraska-kansas-december-2021/
https://watchers.news/2021/11/09/worst-dust-storm-uzbekistan-recorded-history-november-2021/
Massive dust storm sweeps through Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, U.S.
Posted by TW on December 16, 2021
Strong winds caused by a powerful storm moving through the Plains, produced a massive dust storm in eastern Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska on December 15, 2021.
Strong wind gusts in excess of 160 km/h (100 mph) closed roads and knocked out power to more than 200 000 customers in Kansas and Colorado.
Many areas reported blinding dust storm, with zero or near-zero visibility.”
Video – https://thumbs.gfycat.com/GoodnaturedFatGuineafowl-mobile.mp4
“The worst dust storm in Uzbekistan’s recorded history
Posted by Teo Blašković on November 9, 2021
A severe dust storm that started in southern Kazakhstan hit parts of Uzbekistan on the evening of November 4, 2021, growing under favorable weather conditions into the worst since the country started keeping meteorological records in 1871. The worst affected were Tashkent and the southern Syrdarya Region, and Kazakhstan’s Turkestan Region.
According to the country’s meteorological service – Uzhydromet, under the influence of gusts of wind, the parched upper layer of soil rose up, creating the effect of a dust and sand haze, with visibility just 100 – 200 m (328 – 656 feet) in a number of districts in the country.1
Volumes of sand and dust that are raised into the air usually disperse and settle on the ground soon after the wind drops but in this case, a mass of cold air prevented this from happening.
Instead, an inversion layer formed, in which temperatures stop falling with elevation but rise instead.
This created a dust haze, a phenomenon unusual for the region.”
Video – https://youtu.be/69fDlXm3dOk
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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Contentious Coal Mine

From Mongabay.com, news of a contentious coal mine………
Contentious Coal Mine
Legal challenge to South Africa mine expansion looks to set new landmark
by Victoria Schneider on 12 November 2021
Source – https://news.mongabay.com/2021/11/legal-challenge-to-south-africa-mine-expansion-looks-to-set-new-landmark/
“In 2016, South Africa’s minister of minerals and energy granted one of the country’s largest anthracite coal mines the right to expand and resettle 143 families.
The decision was challenged by a local organization that filed an application against the minister, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the mining company, and others.
If the case is won, it would be a landmark for communities affected by mining activities across the country, as the government, traditional authorities and unions have shown support for the mine.
Five years ago, one of South Africa’s largest coal mines was given permission to grow even larger. In 2016, the Tendele mine was granted mining rights to an additional 212 square kilometers (82 square miles) of the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Residents challenged the decision in court in 2018, and the case is finally being heard this week. And when it comes, the decision could be a landmark for communities affected by mining across the country.
At the core of the dispute is a 2016 decision by the minister of minerals and energy to grant Tendele, a subsidiary of South African mining company Petmin, the right to extend its open-pit coal mine at Somkhele, near Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Nature Reserve. The ministry approved extending mining rights over an additional 212 km2, which would have required relocating 143 families.
Tendele has been operating the mine since 2007. It has prompted complaints by local communities about dust pollution affecting people’s health, houses cracking due to blasting, polluted groundwater, and loss of livestock.
The court challenge was initially filed in 2018 by the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organization (MCEJO), a local group formed in opposition to mining in the area. MCEJO has since been joined by four co-applicants representing mining-affected communities and environmental defenders in South Africa. They argue that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for extending the mine was flawed and consultation with the community was inadequate.
“There was no meaningful stakeholder input” and “no prior, free and informed consent obtained from the occupiers of the land,” court papers read.
The case is regarded as a potential landmark for communities affected by mining in South Africa. “This case is vital,” said attorney Kirsten Youens, whose nonprofit law clinic All Rise is representing MCEJO. “What happens in Somkhele is so reminiscent of apartheid days when people were told that they had no rights and had to go with it. This case will show that communities can stand up to big powerful governments and industries.”
Local communities complain about dust pollution affecting people’s health, houses cracking due to blasting, polluted groundwater, and loss of livestock caused by Tendele’s mining.
Long, violent struggle
The hearing has been delayed five times, most recently due to the sheer volume of paperwork submitted by the parties. The case finally opened on Nov. 10 and is scheduled to run for three days, with judgment expected in February 2022 at the earliest.
For Tendele, the matter has become increasingly urgent as the miner says the coal reserves in the current areas will soon be depleted. “Should the mine be unable to very soon open up an extended area, it will be forced to close,” CEO Jan du Preez told Mongabay. According to du Preez, if the mine closes down, 1,200 employees and 70 locally based entrepreneurs would lose their primary source of income. This could be as soon as June 2022.
The company is seeking to have the case referred back to the minister of minerals and energy, which would allow it to continue preparations to expand. But MCEJO attorney Youens insists the extended mining right be withdrawn and the company start again from the beginning.
The dispute around Somkhele has been accompanied by tensions and violence targeting opponents of the mine. It peaked with the murder of Fikile Ntshangase, one of the leading voices against the expansion, in October 2020.
MCEJO itself was divided in the course of the legal battle. The organization, now counting more than 3,000 members, originated in the nearby Fuleni community where residents opposed a planned coal mine in 2015, and soon expanded to Somkhele. The executive committee is based in Fuleni.
Weeks before Ntshangase’s murder, seven of nine members of its Somkhele subcommittee — all but Ntshangase and the chairperson — had signed an agreement with the mine to withdraw from the court case.
The seven have since been expelled from the organization, but in March this year, Tendele signed a “peace accord ” with this splinter group of MCEJO and other local groups in favor of the mine.
An attempt by Tendele to use the internal conflict to challenge Youens’s mandate as the legal representative of MCEJO was dismissed by the court in April.
Company’s shrinking claim
Even before the case is heard, the resistance has affected the narrative. Following accusations that the mine is dividing the community, Tendele eventually admitted that the process of obtaining the new mining right was flawed.
In March 2021, the miner acknowledged a “lack of evidence” proving that the Department of Environmental Affairs had been consulted by the minister of minerals and energy before his decision to grant the mining right, as required by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
Tendele also accepted that the EIA process did not comply with the MPRDA. It concluded that “neither the Regional Manager nor the Minister could have reasonably satisfied themselves that the proposed mining will not result in unacceptable pollution, ecological degradation or damage to the environment.”
The company further admitted “imperfections” in the public participation process, specifying that “Tendele did not obtain consent from MCEJO’s members and other lawful occupiers of the proposed mining sites as required under the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act 31 of 1996.”
Tendele has since reduced the prospective mining area by 92%, now seeking only 17 km2 (6.6 mi2), and is claiming to “retain only those areas which it requires in order to keep the mine operating in the short to medium term.”
The revised extension has left some households uncertain if the mine’s claims still include their homes. “They keep changing the area that is going to be affected,” said Skhombuse Buthelezi, a member of MCEJO who lives in the Ophondweni community that falls into the mining area under dispute.
He said his family was offered compensation of 500,000 rand (nearly $33,000) to relocate, but “no one from the mine has ever engaged with us.” All communication has been done through documents.
Possible settlement emerging
While most affected families have signed agreements with the mine, 10 families have instead entered a mediation process to negotiate a compensation scheme outside the courts.
Richard Spoor Attorneys is representing these households in the mediation. Lawyer Johan Lorenzen said they seek “sustainable compensation based on international best practice grounded in livelihood restoration” rather than Tendele’s offer to pay each based on how much their houses are worth.
Du Preez said that mediation is progressing well. He said he’s also confident that his company has the government’s support: “We must be the only mining company in South Africa that has the Minister and the Premier and the Municipality and Traditional Council and NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] and AMCU [Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union] publicly supporting the mine.”
For its opponents, the case illustrates the struggle faced by communities in mining areas in South Africa and beyond.
“It pits the greed of corporate entities against the environmental and social concerns of the people and is indicative of struggles faced by mining-affected communities across the country,” said Christopher Rutledge, executive director of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), an organization representing mining communities in South Africa that joined MCEJO as an applicant earlier this year.
“So many mines operate above the law,” Youens said. “They know they play such a big role in the economy, they just run over people who don’t know their rights.”
Rutledge was also critical of the role played by the Department of Minerals and Energy. “The DMRE continues to collude with business interests to the detriment of local communities and the environment.”
The DMRE did not respond to questions about this case in time for publication.
Tensions around the mine persist today. Activists and residents opposed to the mine report continuing intimidation and threats, exacerbated by pressure on the remaining holdouts to accept compensation payments and sign relocation agreements.”
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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.