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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T003588/1
Title: GCRF Mine Dust and Health Network
Principal Investigator: Broadhurst, Professor J L
Other Investigators:
Adams, Dr S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Department of Chemical Engineering
Organisation: University of Cape Town
Scheme: UKRI
Starts: 01 August 2019 Ends: 31 July 2021 Value (£): 149,374
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
28 Mar 2019 GCRF GE Networks Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

While the mining industry contributes significantly to the economies of developing countries around the world, mining activities have notable negative environmental and health impacts. Among these, the dust emitted by mining and its associated operations is a cause of increasing concern. Apart from impacting the health of mine-workers who breathe in mineral dust particles, dust is emitted from open pit mines, ore processing and metal extraction plants, ore stockpiles, ore transport containers and mine waste deposits, impacting the wider environment and communities. Lung diseases caused or exacerbated by mine dust exposure include silicosis (caused by inhaling quartz or crystalline silica), black lung disease (caused by inhaling coal dust) and tuberculosis (silica dust exposure increases the risk of pulmonary TB, particularly in gold miners). This places a huge burden on already-strained public health and social security systems.

Occupational health hazards from mining are well documented, and the link between dust and lung disease was recently recognised in a class action lawsuit against the six main mining houses in South Africa, awarded in favour of mine workers who contracted silicosis and TB working on gold mines between March 1965 and May 2018 (https://www.silicosissettlement.co.za/). However, the health effects associated with environmental dust emissions, although frequently a concern expressed by communities and community support organisations, have not been rigorously studied. Meaningful data is needed to inform what strategies and policies will work best to mitigate the effects of mine dust on communities living near mines and mine dumps, the populations of which number in their millions. Gathering such data is not simple, however. There are many complexities involved, with dust sources and their effects being influenced by inter-related factors covering the health, economic, social, geological, environmental, engineering, management, and political spheres. The issues associated with mine dust are also frequently contentious and involve diverse stakeholders and interested and affected parties with different, and often conflicting priorities. Poor engagement and communication between experts and lay persons, disciplinary silos and polarised viewpoints have made it difficult to develop a holistic understanding of the complex health issues associated with environmental emissions of mine dusts, and consequently to design meaningful and integrated approaches to address such issues.

It is these challenges that our GCRF MINE DUST AND HEALTH NETWORK will seek to address by bringing together researchers, stakeholders and practitioners from a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds to identify sources, challenges and potential mitigation opportunities associated with public health effects from dust pollution arising from mining activities. Focus will be on integrating and sharing knowledge and information across different disciplines and stakeholders on potential source and dispersion pathways; potential risks to the environment and the health, quality of life and livelihoods of mining-affected communities; monitoring methods and practices; measures to manage dispersion and impacts; stakeholder engagement and communication; and governance policies, standards and regulations.

Ultimately, the GCRF Mine Dust and Health network will serve as a collaborative think-tank to inform research directions both within and across disciplines; government policy and regulations; health monitoring programmes at public clinics; industry best practice; and community healthcare and impact prevention programmes across southern Africa and, as the Network expands, the globe.

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