To succeed or even to just survive in a time where commerce and capitalism is king, it is important to have something to bring to the commercial table. Something that people need and are willing to form alliances for. What can South Africa bring? Minerals. Lots of minerals. South Africa is one of the countries that can boast about having a well of minerals such as diamonds, gold, copper and more.
The South African mining industry can be considered as South Africa’s golden child. In 2021 Stats SA reported that the South African mining industry contributed a whopping R480 billion to the country’s GDP.
The South African mining industry not only supports the country through creating employment and producing minerals that assist the country to run and function such as coal for electricity, but it also thrusts the country into the global market where the country is able to form valuable international relations by supplying other countries with minerals.
After considering the statistics, the mining industry can be considered as a great asset or contributor to our country’s GDP. However, it can also be said that the industry is a great contributor to the exploitation of miners.
There are many mines that mine different minerals such as diamonds, gold, platinum, and coal. There are also a variety of jobs for miners. Some work underground, operating heavy machinery to extract minerals while others work above ground and collect the extracted minerals.
Though there are different kinds of mines and jobs for miners, being exposed to massive amounts of dust and sometimes fumes is part of the job description for most. Being exposed to dust can cause eye irritation, sneezing, asthma, and throat infections. Being exposed to massive amounts of dust for an extended period every day can cause serious respiratory illnesses such as lung infections, TB, and pneumonia.
Respiratory illnesses are some of the leading causes of death in South Africa. Miners make up the majority of the respiratory illness and death cases in the country. This is mostly because of their poor working conditions and lack of access to quality health care.
In as much as the many injustices in the South African mining industry are being exposed and slowly corrected a lot still needs to be done. There are so many miners and families of miners still waiting for the industry to do right by them.
Non-profit organisations such as Justice For Miners work tirelessly to fight for the rights of miners to make sure that they are fairly compensated and taken care of. They have promoted the documentary Dying for Gold to spread awareness of the injustices faced by miners in South Africa. They have also engaged the Government and Tsiamiso Trust to assist in fairly compensating miners and the families of former miners. They continue to seek and assist miners, former miners and the families of former miners who have been unfairly compensated and treated. Miners need to reap a larger share of the wealth they help the country harvest every year.
Tell us: How would South Africa be a different place is workers were paid a higher share of the wealth that they help produce?