M'SONE MSc Abstract - 2011

Supervisors : Prof HJ Annegarn, Dept of geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, UJ and Dr Arnaud Faanhof, NECSA (to be confirmed)

Mobilisation and Environmental Pathways of Radioactivity from Gold Mine Tailings

Uranium and thorium occur at above global crustal averages in the gold bearing reefs of the Witwatersrand. The residues of the gold extraction process, in the form of finely divided sand and slime tailing facilities, have the potential for this uranium and daughter products to be mobilised into the environment, by mechanical failure of the tailings impoundment, chemical leaching into surface or underground water bodies, or by airborne suspension or radon emanations. The proposed project would examine the environmental hazards posed particularly by liberation through airborne routes, and the risk imposed to communities in the vicinity of tailings dumps. Of special interest are the fine fraction of the dust (less than 10 micron diameter) and radon.

The M'SONE project will be done in conjunction with a project funded by the Mine Health and Safety Council on the public health risks posed by mine tailings impoundments, focusing on the gold mine tailings of Gauteng and Western Province.

Project would require sampling of source and ambient samples, analysis of U and Th and or their daughter products, evaluation of their distribution in the environment by both empirical measurements and mathematical dispersion modelling, leading to a risk assessment.

Prof HJ Annegarn
Department of Geography Environmental Management and Energy Studies
University of Johannesburg