Friday, April 16, 2021

Fresh worrying revelations on Phikwe sulphur dioxide pollution

Sulphur dioxide fumes, emitted by Selibe Phikwe smelters into the air, could be doing a lot of damage to the environment and the country’s infrastructure ÔÇô Africa’s largest research and development body revealed this week.

A report by Shaan Oosthuizen, Senior Process Engineer at Key Structure Holdings and Dr Jannie Maree, Principal Researcher at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) National Resource and Environment, states, “The planet’s second largest single emitter of sulphur dioxide is Selibe Phikwe, a mining town in Botswana, where a copper-nickel smelter emits sulphur dioxide into the air. When sulphur dioxide combines with rain water, sulphuric acid is formed. Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive and, as a result, kills vegetation and corrodes infrastructure.”

Established by the South African Parliament as the central scientific research and development resource for the country, the CSIR is today the largest research and development organization in Africa, accounting for about 10 percent of the entire African research and development budget.

CSIR and Key Structure Holdings are proposing that instead of releasing the sulphurous pollution into the environment, “technologies could be developed and implemented to capture the pollutants into valuable industrial chemicals.”

CSIR and Key Structure are currently working on technologies that can be used to capture and convert natural sulphurous pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide generated during the smelting of sulphidic oxides.

Although the BCL mine in Selibe-Phikwe is reported to be the planet’s second largest single emitter of sulphur dioxide, the Minister of Health, Sheila Tlou, insists that there is no evidence to suggest that this is affecting the health of residents.

Although the jury is still out on the effects of Phikwe mine emissions on the health of residents, Tlou recently presented parliament with statistics suggesting that there is no reason to panic.
Tlou told parliament that population based data for estimation of prevalence of lung and respiratory related illnesses, which could be caused by the BCL mine emissions in the area, are not available.

She, however, explained that statistics from health facilities do not suggest any significant difference in prevalence of lung and respiratory related illnesses in the Selibe-Phikwe area compared to other health districts.


Read this week's paper