The following article: Human health: On corporate (ir-)responsibility and manganese, in the Mail and Guardian Thought Leader column by Bert Olivier, deserves to be read and sent on to your mates in Transnet, not just once but many many times:
Below is an extract from the article:
Some weeks ago, an article by Guy Rogers appeared in a Port Elizabeth newspaper, the Herald, titled “Transnet says it is committed to relocate its manganese operation”. A reasonably reassuring statement, one would think. And yet, on closer inspection, it is highly disturbing, to say the least, that, according to the Transnet spokesperson quoted in the report, Transnet is in the process of converting “an existing air quality permit for the PE manganese terminal into an emissions licence”.
I say this for two reasons. Firstly that, shifting the emphasis from permission regarding “air quality” to permission in terms of “emissions”, is a confession that no euphemistic reading of the bland, unqualified word, “emissions”, could disguise. Is there still a single “responsible” citizen left who would not detect in this an admission to the effect that legal permission is being sought to pollute the environment, more specifically the Nelson Mandela Bay air, near and around the Port Elizabeth harbour area, with a substance that is implicitly acknowledged as being potentially harmful to living beings? I think not.
Secondly, and related to the first reason, it appears to be disingenuous in the extreme for Transnet allegedly to reiterate its earlier verbal promise, to move the terminal by 2016 (ambiguously, I might add: 2016 has suddenly become “2016/2017”), given its awareness of widespread opposition to its manganese operations in the PE harbour area. After all, this opposition is grounded in a legitimate concern, primarily for the health of everyone who is at the receiving end of the manganese pollution – and in Port Elizabeth, given the prevailing winds, this means a lot of people – but secondarily also for the damaging effect of the manganese ore dust on property (buildings, yachts, and what they contain) in the area. (According to friends of mine who are yachtspeople, it is no joke to get rid of the layer of manganese ore dust, spread like a blanket over their yachts, after a manganese loading session when the wind has been blowing in the direction of the yacht basin from the manganese ore dump.)
What Transnet is implicitly indicating with its tardiness, of course, is that it is less concerned about the deleterious effects on health and property than about the financial implications of terminating its operations as soon as possible. One wonders which entity, on whose behalf Transnet (probably to its own substantial profit) is operating the manganese ore terminal, is hovering in the background. I am willing to bet the proverbial farm that it is a mammoth corporation, which abuses its money power in the form of pressure to maintain a lucrative, if demonstrably health-detrimental operation.
I doubt whether it is necessary to elaborate here on the negative effects of excessive manganese absorption on humans. Suffice it to say that, although it is one of the essential trace elements that we ingest through certain foodstuffs (see http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/mn.htm#ixzz1FhtERYtL ), an excess of manganese in the human body causes manganese poisoning, which affects respiratory as well as brain function, shown in symptoms such as forgetfulness and hallucinations. It is said that, in the longer term, exposure to manganese dust could cause Parkinson’s disease, bronchitis, male impotence, and even schizophrenia.
Needless to say, in light of what was said above, it is highly irresponsible, if not downright cynical, of Transnet even to consider applying for the right to extend the manganese ore operations in the PE harbour area. Perhaps the greatest reason for concern on the part of Port Elizabeth inhabitants is the fact that, in the newspaper report referred to, the statement by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro spokesperson is indicative of an invidiously compromising position. According to this person, the Metro is attempting “to ’strike a balance’ between its opposition to the present positioning of the ore terminal and its role as adjudicator of the parastatal’s application to renew its lease for the site”.
This seems to me to be a clear case of a conflict of interests: the Metro municipality cannot be the adjudicating authority, and, at the same time, an opponent of maintaining the ore terminal in its present, clearly harmful location. To state that the Metro is trying to “strike a balance”, and “to be objective”, is an expression of wanting to reconcile what is irreconcilable, suggesting hidden, vested interests that conflict with its primary, obligatory opposition to the ore dump. As a friend of mine remarked, it is comparable to the mother of one of the contestants sitting on the panel of adjudicators in a Ms World competition.
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