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Cablegate: South Africa: Review of Dr. Robert Finkelman's

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 003283

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/STC/JROTTIER, AF/S, AF/EPS
STATE PLEASE PASS USGS
STATE PLEASE PASS TO NSF FOR ELYONS
STATE PLEASE PASS TO DOE FOR OFFICE OF FOSSIL ENERGY/LYNCHR
STATE PLEASE PASS TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR TBIO
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR GLOBAL BUREAU APETERSON
HHS FOR THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY WSTEIGER
HHS FOR NIH/FIC JLEVIN
CDC FOR SBLOUNT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KSCA EMIN SENV EIND BC MZ WA SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICA: REVIEW OF DR. ROBERT FINKELMAN'S
THREE-MONTH TOUR AS EMBASSY SCIENCE FELLOW


1. (U) Summary: On June 28, Dr. Finkelman, a coal scientist
with the U.S. Geological Survey, completed a highly
successful three-month tour-of-duty as Embassy Science
Fellow. Dr. Finkelman met with more than 500 South
Africans in over forty formal meetings, presentations, and
seminars to officials in government, industry, academia,
and public health to introduce the field of medical
geology. His conclusion was that there was more than
sufficient support in South Africa to pursue medical
geology as a science and as a public health concern. Dr.
Finkelman will be returning to South Africa in 2005 and
2006 to teach courses in medical geology and coal science,
and to consult with both government and industry on the
establishment of a medical geology research center to serve
both the country and the region. End summary.

---------------
Medical Geology
---------------

2. (U) Earth disturbances caused by mining, farming,
construction, and natural events such as earthquakes and
volcanic activity, together with the burning of
hydrocarbons may release gases and particulate matter into
the environment that harm human and animal health. Medical
geology is the science of determining the impact on health
of such geological activities, and proposing solutions.
South Africa is a natural place to foster medical geology,
since the country has one of the world's largest mining
industries, generates more than 60 percent of the
continent's electricity from high ash coal, and is home to
the most advanced commercial agriculture on the continent.
Moreover, health problems that might have been addressed by
medical geology still have not been tackled in a
coordinated way.

-------------------------------
Medical Geology Research Center
-------------------------------

3. (U) Dr. Finkelman used his Embassy Science Fellowship to
introduce the concept of medical geology to a wide-ranging
audience in South Africa. His presentations generated
considerable interest among government, industry, and
academic officials. There was particular interest in
establishing a medical geology research center that could
facilitate the analysis of trace elements, the
identification of toxic substances, the development of
preventative measures and medical treatment, teaching, and
domestic and international research in the field of medical
geology. Before Dr. Finkelman departed, Pretoria,
Johannesburg, and Witwatersrand Universities as well as the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (a
government research institution) expressed the desire to
participate in the establishment of such a center.

-----------------
Other Initiatives
-----------------

4. (U) Other initiatives set in motion by Dr. Finkelman
include the following:

-- Johannesburg University [recently created through the
merger of Rand Afrikaans University and Witwatersrand
Technikon] will develop a coal quality database as an
integral part of its planned Center of Excellence for Coal,
Hydrocarbon, Energy and Environmental Education. The
database will also be part of South Africa's Coaltech 2020
research program to determine the quantity and quality of
South African coal reserves.


-- University of Pretoria is creating an informal Medical
Geology Working Group to plot the way forward on animal
health issues;

-- University of Kwazulu/Natal Medical School (Durban)
plans to include medical geology as part of its course on
Environmental Toxicology;

-- Onderstepoort Veterinary School (Pretoria) will research
medical geology as it pertains to animals. At Dr.
Finkelman's suggestion, the school will host a first-ever
workshop on 'Veterinary Geology' in 2006, to be sponsored
by the United Nations.

5. (U) Dr. Finkelman's presence also stimulated the
following:

-- universities and research organizations are developing a
regional network to share information on medical geology
already there has been an exchange of information on
veterinary matters between Namibia and South Africa;

-- Anglo Coal has initiated research on the impact of
spontaneous coal combustion on human health;

-- National Institute for Occupational Health is
contemplating developing a predictive model for Coal
Workers Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung Disease);

-- visiting professors from Pennsylvania State University
and Eastern Georgia College helped teach courses at
Witwatersrand University, and consulted with SASOL and
other coal producers.

----------------------
The Foreseeable Future
----------------------

6. (U) Given South Africa's world-class mining industry and
sophisticated medical community, Dr. Finkelman believes
that the country is uniquely situated to benefit from the
science of medical geology. On his return to the United
States, he has promised to seek financial support for the
creation of a medical geology research center in South
Africa, similar to the one that he is establishing in
China. In addition, Dr. Finkelman has agreed to return to
South Africa in 2005 and 2006 to lecture at the
universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Witwatersrand in
medical and veterinary geology, to consult to Sasol and
Anglo Coal and to supervise South Africa's first master's
degree student studying medical geology. As requested, Dr.
Finkelman will analyze and report to Anglo American Coal on
trace elements emitted from its burning coal dumps and
abandoned underground mines in Witbank (in Mpumalanga
Province). The burning coal presents a significant health
and safety hazard to local inhabitants.
HUME

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