Govt to start Assmang inquiry on Monday

A formal inquiry by the Department of Labour into the exposure of poisonous fumes at a Cato Ridge manganese company will begin on Monday.

The inquiry follows six cases of manganism that were reported at the Assmang plant.

Manganism is acquired by overexposure to airborne manganese and is a disease that affects the sufferer’s central nervous system, leaving them with symptoms very similar to Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The department’s spokesperson, Zolisa Sigabi, said on Friday that the five-day inquiry is aimed specifically at establishing the possible causes of the manganism.

She said the department also wanted to establish the level of manganese fumes or dust that workers were exposed to, whether the employer had fulfilled his legal obligation of preventing exposure and whether control mechanisms were put in place by the employer.

Sigabi said the department also wants to finalise who is to be held responsible for the exposure and what measures will be implemented to prevent a re-occurrence.

Jan Steenkamp, CEO of African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) — one of the stakeholders in Assmang — was not immediately available for comment. — Sapa

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