Tens of thousands of poor South Africans living in the shadow of vast mine dumps around Johannesburg are being exposed to toxic substances such as arsenic, lead and uranium. More than 200 mounds of earth contaminated with heavy metals, notably uranium, lie within sight of the city, says the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic. They include the one close to where 50-year-old Thabo Ngubane tends his vegetables in Snake Park in the north of Soweto. "Look at my spinach. That is the sand from the mine. The yellow one in the soil — it’s destroying everything," he says. "When there are heavy rains, all the mine waste comes here and erodes everything. This month 22 of my baby pigs died … I think it’s because of the mine." When the waste comes into contact with water, oxidation forms a dangerous solution. The company responsible for the slag heap built a storage pool to allow contaminated water to evaporate in an effort to protect the neighbouring homes from pollution. But the pool wal...

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