Potential socio-economic consequences of mine closure
Van Der Waldt, Gerrit
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Background: Mine closures generally reveal negligence on the part of mining houses, not only in terms of the environment, but also the surrounding mining communities. Aim: This article reflects on the findings of research into the socio-economic consequences of mine closure. The research specifically explored how mineworkers’ dependency on their employment at a mine affects their ability to sustain their livelihood. Setting: The research was conducted at the Orkney Mine and the Grootvlei Mine (Springs). Methods: The research was conducted within a naturalistic domain, guided by a relativist orientation, a constructivist ontology and an interpretivist epistemology. Data were collected by means of document analysis, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussion and unstructured observation. Results: From the research findings, it is evident that mine closures, in general, have a devastating effect on the surrounding mining communities as well as on the employees. Mine closures in the case studies gradually depleted the mining communities’ livelihood assets and resulted in the collapse of their coping strategies and livelihood outcomes. It generally affected the communities’ nutrition, health, education, food security, water, shelter, levels of community participation and personal safety. Conclusion: If not managed efficiently and effectively, mine closures may pose significant challenges to the mining industry, government, the environment, national and local economic prosperity and communities in the peripheral areas of mines. This truly amplifies that mine closure, whether temporary or permanent, is an issue that needs to be addressed with responsibility towards all stakeholders, including the mining community and the labour force.