Last update:
2021-06-02

Ezulwini gold and uranium mining, Gauteng, South Africa

Intense gold and uranium mining is having a detrimental effect on local communities' and workers' health due to accumulated radioactive waste. Miners and local residents protest unsafe working and health conditions.


Description:

The Witwatersrand is a region containing a  mountain ridge of gold-bearing rock which is mostly located in the Gauteng province of South Africa. The gold is located in reef beds which were first discovered in 1886 [1]. The beginning of gold mining in the Whitwatersrand region resulted in it becoming the most densely populated region of South Africa, with settlements initially constructed for the miners, the mining area grew and developed due to supporting industries moving in [2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Ezulwini gold and uranium mining, Gauteng, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:Gauteng
Location of conflict:Whitwatersrand
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium
Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The mine produced 31,407lbs of uranium in 2011. Gold production in 2011 doubled over the previous year, while Uranium declined by 29%. Full production attained by 2019 and the mine has an expected life of about 19 years.

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Level of Investment:200,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:10,000,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Gold One International Ltd. from South Africa - Owner of the Ezulwini mine.
First Uranium Corporation from Canada - https://www.azomining.com/Suppliers.aspx?SupplierID=1003
AngloGold Ashanti
DRDGOLD Limited from South Africa
EZULWINI MINING COMPANY (PTY) LTD from South Africa
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Street protest/marches
Strikes
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Air pollution, Soil contamination
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Accidents, Infectious diseases
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsTuberculosis
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although some of the major companies involved in gold and uranium mining were ordered to pay compensation for workers and their families who had health complications, there is still no regulatory processes for the companies to adhere to in terms of dealing with the environmental damage and pollution of watercourses/air pollution. And with these mining activities growing, there is great concern for the safety of these communities in the future unless large scale epidemiological studies are undertaken and mining companies are ordered to dispose of waste and mine minerals in a safe manner.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[9] Report by Wise and Somo 2011 by Fleur Scheele : Uranium from Africa.

ISBN:978-90-71284-82-3
[click to view]

[8] Perceptions of external costs of dust fallout from gold mine tailings: West Wits Basin
[click to view]

[6] FRANK WINDE, 2009, URANIUM POLLUTION OF WATER RESOURCES IN MINED-OUT AND ACTIVE GOLDFIELDS OF SOUTH AFRICA -

A CASE STUDY IN THE WONDERFONTEINSPRUIT CATCHMENT ON EXTENT AND SOURCES OF U-CONTAMINATION AND ASSOCIATED HEALTH RISKS
[click to view]

[7] J.F Durand, 2012, The impact of gold mining on the Witwatersrand on the rivers and karst system of Gauteng and North West Province, South Africa
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] The Guardian 2017: South African police shoot dead striking miners
[click to view]

[1] Hibakusha Movement Worldwide: Witwatersrand, South Africa, Uranium mining site
[click to view]

[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica: Witwatersrand
[click to view]

[3] Pindula 2019: SA Gold Mines Announce Compensation For Mineworkers Employed From 1965 Onward
[click to view]

[4] Wise Uranium 2021: Issues at Operating Uranium Mines and Mills - Africa
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update02/06/2021
Comments
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