The impact of artisanal mining on rehabilitation efforts of abandoned mine shafts in Sutherland goldfield, South Africa
Mhlongo, Sphiwe E.
Gitari, Wilson M.
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Abandoned gold mine sites are generally characterised by severe environmental problems and physical hazards. Because of socio-economic problems confronting communities around abandoned mine sites, historic and abandoned gold mines have become hot-spots for artisanal and small-scale miners. These mining activities at times thwart the efforts of rehabilitation at these sites. This article details how artisanal mining operations have frustrated rehabilitation efforts of abandoned mine shafts in the Sutherland goldfield. The field investigation of abandoned shafts and analysis of the nature of artisanal mining operations in the Sutherland goldfield revealed that artisanal mining involving digging around collars of sealed shafts is a major threat to the stability of the shafts and their sealing structures. In addition, artisanal mining operations have increased the safety risks of the abandoned shafts in the area. This has also been worsened by the fact that a large number of people, especially women and children, are exposed to the hazards of the abandoned mine sites. This article emphasises an urgent need for the development of holistic and cohesive strategies for dealing with the problems of abandoned gold mine shafts wherever they exist in the country as opposed to simply closing them up.