MAC: Mines and Communities

African mining may be driving TB epidemic: study

Published by MAC on 2010-06-04
Source: Reuters, Mail & Guardian Zambia

A study on how mining has contributed significantly to tuberculosis makes an interesting counter-point to the boasting of company health initiatives. Funding TB eradication is often part of CSR propaganda, and as such presented as philanthropy. However, it can be seen in this light as cleaning up the very nests they have fouled.

However, what isn't covered in the stories below is the tendency to mis-diagnose cases of silicosis (incurable) as tuberculosis (curable) still prevalent in some countries and among medical authorities, including those closely associated with companies. There is more on this topic in a paper given by Dr Shula Marks at a London Mining Network organised public meeting after the Anglo Meeting AGM on 22 April 2010. See:-

The article itself seems to be available only with subscription, but an Abstract and an email contact is available here:



African mining may be driving TB epidemic: study

Kate Kelland


1 June 2010

LONDON - Poor living and working conditions for miners of gold, diamonds and other precious metals have contributed significantly to tuberculosis (TB) epidemics across Africa, scientists said on Tuesday.

Researchers from Britain and the United States said their study suggested that crowded living and working conditions, dust in mines, and the spread of HIV mean Africa's mining industry may figure in up to 760,000 new cases of TB each year.

Men traveling from afar to work in mines, such as from Botswana to South Africa, are at the greatest risk of getting TB, the researchers wrote in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

But their wives, children and friends are also at high risk of catching the disease when miners travel back and forth to work, often many times a year. "Improving living and healthcare conditions for miners may be necessary not only for the miners, but for controlling tuberculosis epidemics throughout sub-Saharan Africa," said Dr David Stuckler from the Department of Sociology at Oxford University, who led the study.

Tuberculosis killed 1.8 million people worldwide in 2008, or nearly 5,000 people a day.

The disease can be cured with antibiotics, but they must be taken daily for months to be effective, and scarce health funds in some countries mean fewer drugs are available.

TB has been on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years, with a doubling of the annual incidence from 173 to 351 per 100,000 population between 1990 and 2007.

These rises are largely the result of a growing epidemic of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. But Stuckler and colleagues said data shows that HIV is only one of several factors involved in TB's spread in the region.

HIV increases the risk of TB because it weakens the body's immune system.

Miners are also known to spread tuberculosis to their families and communities, the researchers said, since nearly half of workers in large mining countries like South Africa are foreign and routinely travel across large distances.

The scientists took data on mining between 2001 and 2005 and compared them with TB incidence and death rates for 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

They found evidence that mining had a significant impact on the spread of TB, and that the risk appeared to be worst in countries with high levels of HIV.

The risks were associated with the living conditions around mines, they said, and with mining for gold, which is believed to expose miners to more potentially harmful silica dust than any other mineral.

The study also found that when countries reduced their mining activity, TB rates fell more quickly, or rose less, than in neighboring nations where mining rates were stable or increased.

Mining drives spread of TB in Africa, says new report

Mail and Guardian Zambia

2 June 2010

Mining operations in Africa could be driving the whole continent's tuberculosis epidemic, a new Oxford-led study has found. Released on Tuesday evening, the study suggests that mining in sub-Saharan Africa is spreading the disease.

Researchers at Oxford and Brown universities, the University of California, San Francisco and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimate that the mining industry in Africa might be implicated in as many as 760 000 new cases of tuberculosis each year, due to factors such as silica dust in mines, crowded working and living conditions, and the spread of HIV.

"Men travelling from afar to work in mines, such as from Botswana to South Africa, are at the greatest risk of getting tuberculosis," the study found.

"But their wives, children, and friends are also at high risk when miners travel back and forth to work, often many times a year."

This meant that even if mining clinics successfully diagnose tuberculosis in miners and started treatment appropriately, the message was often not relayed back to doctors who worked at the miners' hometowns.

The authors of the study suggest this disruption of treatment posed a major threat of developing a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, concluded that mining companies and governments must work together to achieve "similar levels of risk to those observed in Western mines", especially since mines in Africa were owned by the same companies.

To do this, the researchers indicated that healthcare programmes should emphasise continuity of care as miners travelled across borders and they should routinely screen miners in order to detect tuberculosis at an early stage.

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