Authors: JCA Davies , JI Phillips

Source: Occupational Health Southern Africa. Vol.23 No.3; May/June 2017

Introduction: This paper is based on two historic reports in the archives of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH). The early years of this institution were packed with interesting and innovative projects for those who were working there 50 or more years ago. The best known is, of course, the description of the association between blue asbestos and malignant mesothelioma in the Northern Cape. At the time, Harry Gear was the Director of the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit (PRU), and one can see his influence in both the reports discussed here. The first is entitled An industry survey of underground dust conditions in large South African gold mines. It was written by the Group Ventilation Engineer of the Anglo American Corporation, J de Villiers Lambrechts, who, in 1964, became the first Professor of Mining Engineering at the University of Pretoria. The research project, the methodology and the results were recorded in detail as PRU Report No. 3/631 which was labelled ‘confidential’. The document was unearthed by Michael Martinson as part of his (unpublished) research into dust levels in gold mines. An epidemiologist reading the report will recognise it as the work of a trained scientist in this field.