Regenerate the soil of an abandoned mine site to retrieve a natural vegetation that could neutralize harmful dusts for the environment and for the people …
Bulembu is a landlocked village located about twenty kilometeres away from the town of Piggs Peak, which can be reached by a dirt road. On the other side of the village, there is a tiny border post for entering South Africa via a small road with breathtaking scenery.Bulembu is surrounded by impressive mountains with rounded shapes which are among the oldest in the world. At the bottom of the valley, the river and the waterfall are supplied by heavy rains in summer.In 1936, after the discovery of asbestos in the ground, the British company “Havelock” installed a mining industry on the site.The plant grew rapidly, and many Swazis were hired in the mine. The population of Bulembu reached 10 000 inhabitants in the 80s.Hundreds of British citizens occupying management positions in the compagny progressively settled in the village with their families.They built houses, schools, a hospital, a sports club with golf courses, tennis courts, pool and even a polo field. There was also a cinema which, like other infrastructures, were all reserved for the British elite of the village.In the 90s, the discovery of the dangerousness of asbestos drastically reduced its use, and in 1999 the company Havelock filed for bankruptcy. The mining activity suddenly stopped, emptying the village of its inhabitants in just a few months.The judicial liquidation of the compagny led to the dismantling of the industrial furniture but also the building materials, like window frames … etc.In 2005, the abandoned village was bought by the Swazi NGO “Bulembu Ministries”.The village, is now home to 1,400 people and an orphanage for 350 children. The positive rebirth of Bulembu is however darkened by 50 hectares of land disfigured by the gaping hole with possible dangerous dusts off in high winds.Although the type of asbestos present here -chrysotile- is considered the least dangerous of the six different types of asbestos, the diseases caused by prolonged exposure to dust are a reality.
As part of its biochar experimental project in Southern Africa, The Ivory Foundation, provided the NGO Bulembu Ministries, a burner for producing the amendment to cover the old mine site.
The assumption is that, thanks to its soil regeneration properties, biochar could grow natural vegetation can partially cover the gaping hole and neutralize the asbestos dust.
The results will also feed into the study conducted with the Botswana University of Agriculture.