South32 (ASX:S32) share price slumps amid ‘concerning’ heavy metals levels in residents

South32 is reportedly working to reduce the amount of dust produced by its Gemco mine following health concerns.

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The South32 Ltd (ASX: S32) share price struggled today amid reports that dust from the company’s Gemco mine could be causing “concerning” levels of manganese in nearby residents.

According to reporting by ABC News, the Anindilyakwa Land Council – representing the traditional owners of Groote Eyland, an island in Arnhem Land – is working with South32 to lessen the dust coming from the manganese mine.

As of Tuesday’s close, the South32 share price is $3.66, 1.08% lower than it was at the end of Monday’s session.

For context, the S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.03% on Tuesday.

Let’s take a look at today’s news of the metals and mining company.

South32 working to reduce dust from manganese mine

The South32 share price has suffered on the ASX today.

Meanwhile, reports emerged that hair and nail samples from people residing nearby the company’s Gemco mine have been found to contain high levels of manganese.

According to ABC News, the Anindilyakwa Land Council commissioned a report into the effects of dust from the manganese mine 8 years ago. Its CEO, Mark Hewitt reportedly told the publication that the report’s results can’t be released as it hasn’t been published.

The publication states that the World Health Organisation has found inhaling manganese can cause “damage to brain functions controlling dexterity as well as the respiratory and reproductive systems”.

However, the land council has decided to stop funding the research. Instead, it’s working with the company to reduce the amount of dust impacting the community. ABC News quoted Hewitt as saying:

South32, to their credit, immediately embarked on extensive measures to prevent their manganese dust entering into the communities, which are in proximity to mining activities, and that work has been going on for three to four years, and it has definitely made a significant reduction.

The company has since begun spraying the site with water and avoiding the use of machinery nearby residential areas when wind conditions would allow dust to travel.  

South32 is also reportedly monitoring to make sure dust levels don’t breach national air quality guidelines. The company’s head of external affairs, Liam Stower was quoted as saying:

That monitoring has shown that the ambient dust in the community of Angurugu is below the National Environmental Protection Measure, the NEPM guidelines, so that gives us a high level of confidence about the health and wellbeing of our community.

South32 has been mining at Gemco for more than half a century. It’s the largest Manganese mine in the world.

South32 share price snapshot

It’s been a good year so far for South32 on the ASX.

Right now, the South32 share price is 46% higher than it was at the start of 2021.

It has also gained 3% since this time last month.

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Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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