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Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 20:40:05 GMT
Reply-To: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
Subject: Deaths of South African Mine Workers
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

/** labr.global: 211.0 **/
** Topic: Deaths of South African workers **
** Written 10:38 PM Nov 14, 1995 by labornet in cdp:labr.global **
From: LaborNet-IGC <labornet@igc.apc.org>

Ceremony to commemorate the deaths of South African workers at Vametco, a US-owned mine in South Africa!

From the South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice
18 November 1995

The South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice (SAEPEJ), GreenPeace and other coalition members from New England are organizing this wreath laying ceremony which is scheduled on the same day as the wreath laying ceremony at the mine gates in South Africa to commemorate the deaths of former workers at Vametco, a US-owned mine.

Let us not stand by and watch these abuses go on as South Africa tries to rebuild a new democratic society. US corporations need to be accountable and cannot get away with lax standards here or abroad. The unions in South Africa through the regional Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) offices have asked SAEPEJ to assist them in their struggle. Please join us for the ceremony and press release highlighting the conditions at Vametco.

For more info and to sign-on to the press release or to get involved in other ways please contact SAEPEJ at tel. (617) 983-2239, fax (617) 983-2240 or email at hkalan@acs.bu.edu

Sunday, 19 Nov. 1995 @ 1:00pm
Meet at the Waldbaums Supermarket parking lot in Danbury, CT on Main St. (opposite from 30 Main St.).


VAMETCO, a vanadium mine in South Africa and owned by Strategic Minerals Corporation in Danbury Connecticut, U.S.A., has refused to discuss the health and environmental concerns of workers and nearby communities. This vanadium mine had originally agreed to investigate and address concerns about worker and community health raised at the Greater Brits Local Development Forum (in North West Province).

A number of former Vametco workers have died with symptoms of Vanadium poisoning, while young children and old people living nearby have a high incidence of respiratory illnesses which they claim is from the mine dust which blows off open dumps. There are also claims that the mine has polluted the subterranean water in the area.

The mine has been presented by worker and community structures with requests for information, but appears to be reluctant to cooperate.

A medical examination conducted in 1992 by the National Center for Occupational Health (NCOH) at the request of the Legal Resource Center in Pretoria on 67 former workers of the mine indicated that 41 of them reported chest pain, bronchitis or asthma and one of them had cancer of the larynx.

"The dust blowing off the mine dumps makes children and old people ill, the community has seen what has happened to the workers and we are afraid," said Louis Khompela, the chairman of the civic association at Mothotlung township some five kilometers from the mine. Borehole water on which the villagers depend is allegedly contaminated by vanadium and chemicals used in the mine infect people and their livestock.

"The problem at the mine dates back to 1990 when the mine workers went on strike over salary deductions that were made without their consent for clothing, canteen and medical coverage and also because of unhealthy working conditions," said National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) official Jacob Ngakane.

"On the day of the strike the workers were locked in and the former Bophuthatswana police were called, ten strikers including a shop steward, Mohammed Rashid and a trade unionist, Tsheko Ngalo, were detained for a week without being charged. Workers went on strike despite a ban on trade unions organizing in the homeland, says Ngakane.

"Following the strike all the workers were dismissed and later others were re-employed. Workers who applied for re-employment were medically examined by doctors arranged by the mine management and those with signs of vanadium poisoning were allegedly turned down," added Ngakane.

Ngakane said conditions at the mine are still the same since 300 mine workers went on strike over a salary dispute and the health conditions five years ago. "Attempts to engage the management in negotiations to address the working conditions and compensation for the families of the victims have failed," Ngakane says.

The workers and communities of Mothutlung (population 12,000) and Rankotea (population 2000), outside of the town of Brits n the North West Province in South Africa, have requested assistance in addressing what they believe to be a growing problem. Present workers at the mine report chest and coughing problems, with many of them having blue-green tongues associated with Vanadium poisoning.

Community and worker representatives would like an independent investigation conducted into worker health and environmental problems they are experiencing. Former workers who were fired during a strike would like to claim compensation for the medical problems they are experiencing.

The South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice (SAEPEJ) and GreenPeace are organizing a wreath laying ceremony and press conference at the headquarters of Strategic Minerals Corporation in Danbury, CT on the 19th of November 1995 at 1:00pm. This ceremony is scheduled on the same day as the wreath laying ceremony at the mine gates in South Africa to commemorate the deaths of former workers.

Your support and cooperation on this is highly appreciated. Please spread the word and contact SAEPEJ for directions and more info. If you cannot make it but would like to sign-on to the coalition group please let us know.

If you cannot join us in Danbury, please let your concerns be known:

William G. Beattie, President
Strategic Minerals Corporation
30 Main St.
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-790-1555
Fax: 203-790-5750

Request that:

  • Strategic Minerals Corporation guarantee a meeting between Vametco's management and workers at the Vametco mine, the National Union of Metalworkers, and community leaders from Mothutlung and Rankotea;
  • Provide for an independent medical investigation into the health of Vametco workers, past and present, and of the people in the neighboring communities;
  • Provide specialized medical treatment to those currently afflicted with illnesses associated with vanadium poisoning;
  • Compensate current sufferers of vanadium poisoning and the families of workers who have died; and,
  • Work with NUMSA and the communities to eliminate the toxic blowing dust and the contamination of subterranean water.

Please contact the South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice (SAEPEJ) at (617)983-2239 or 6 Goodrich Rd. #2, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 email: hkalan@acs.bu.edu for more information and to get involved.

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