The people of South Africa have benefited very little from our mineral wealth since the commencement of industrial mining. Instead, our minerals have enriched Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Germany mostly. Many of our minerals are now running out. For us to benefit from the remaining minerals we need to ask and answer the following questions:
– Who should be doing the mining? – How should mining be done? – What should be mined and what should be left alone? – Why should we mine? – When should we mine? – What should be the pace of mining?
1) Who should be doing the mining?
– At the moment 5 global multinational corporations dominate gold mining in South Africa. – Three global corporations dominate platinum mining in South Africa. – Three global corporations dominate diamond mining in South Africa. – Five global corporations dominate coal mining in South Africa. – Three global corporations dominate iron mining in South Africa. – This must end. This is our country, and these are our minerals and they should be mined primarily for our benefit and not for the enrichment of foreign shareholders.
2) The pace at which mining takes place.
– Currently, the global corporations mine as if there is no tomorrow, they mine to get the minerals on to ships and out of the country as quickly as possible. – Because of the speed at which they are mining, there is very little consideration for worker health and safety or for the environment. – As a consequence, we have 500 000 mineworkers suffering from silicosis, and an as yet uncounted multitude suffering from black lung disease and platinosis. – As a consequence, we have many rivers under severe stress from mine pollution; – As a result, we have lost millions of tonnes of topsoil putting our food security at risk; – As a result we have the 13th highest level of air pollution in the world and contribute to 98% of Africa’s air pollution. – As a result, we produce 86% of Africa’s waste.
3) How should mining be done?
– As the minerals run out so the large scale global corporations will lose interest in the country and the country will revert to small scale mining. – Small-scale mining is much less destructive and costly than large-scale mining. – Small scale mining can be co-managed by communities and mineworkers retaining far more benefits locally than large-scale industrial mining. – There will be far more room for mineral beneficiation with small scale mining. – Small scale mining will slow down the pace of mining and will have a far longer life horizon than large-scale mining. – Small scale mining will be locally owned and controlled. – Mining should never be preferenced over more sustainable alternative economic opportunities. – The environment, environmental justice, and sustainability should always be preferenced over mining. – Water should never be compromised for the sake of mining. – Human health and well-being should never be compromised for the sake of mining. – We should only mine if we know that at the end of the life of mine the operation can be properly closed and rehabilitated. At the moment there are 3000 abandoned mines in South Africa causing all kinds of environmental destruction and risk.
4) Why should we mine?
– We should mine to satisfy human need rather than personal enrichment and greed. – We should mine for the benefit of the people of our country, and the wealth derived from mining should equally benefit all the people of South Africa.
5) When should we mine?
– We should mine as an absolute last resort, driven only by human need. – Only when the environmental and social costs will be minimal. – Only when we as South Africans are in control of the situation.