Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Ekurhuleni Monitors investigate abandoned mines on the East Rand

AbandonedMInesEEO ( Ekhuruleni Environmental Organisation) monitors lead by Meshack Mbangula are investigating how mines abandoned by gold mining corporations are affecting the local community and the environment. Their research is focussed on three communities in the Ekurhuleni municipality.

These mines have been left unrehabilitated and is regarded by community members as dangerous for their children. The mines continued to be mined by informal miners.

Meshack explained the reasons for the research:   “ Our aim is to to track down the mines which used to operate in these areas, and hold them accountable for their actions”.

This research which is based in Grootvlei, Flagfontein and Reggelspark communities started in September 2014 and is still continuing. The community members in affected areas were interviewed to share their views about these mines. Government officials and the experts in the field are also being interviewed. The research report will be used to shame and expose the companies responsible for the unrehabilitated land and will be available at the community monitors website and to the communities, said Meshack.

Below is a short extract from Meshacks report

Interview with an ex miner

Mr Makhubu who is 85 years old worked for Daggafontein mine for 21 years initially his from Cedara in Pietermaritzburg. The mine he worked in closed down. He was not able to find other work. He and other miners had no alternative but to go back to the shut down mine shafts and do their own mining. Now that Mr Makhubu is old he is not able to do any mining but to supervise the illegal miners to earn a living.

A lot of people were not keen to be interviewed. They were afraid of undercover police who arrest those involved in illegal mining. I have managed to mobilize a few and I am sure they will work with me in the future

The community living in the area have no information about the dangers associated with the abandoned mines. They don’t know about acid mine drainage and other dangerous chemicals that pollute the water. The community of Daggafointein have no proper housing, no running water and toilets. They use the water close to the tailings dam for cooking, washing and drinking. When they encounter health problem, they think its from natural causes.

Illegal miners are mostly those people from outside South Africa who used to work for the mine   and now cannot be employed anywhere else and decided to go back to the abandon mine and mine. The painful part is that, some of them die underground, some are killed by thugs who wait for them and when they come up they are robbed sometimes killed. It is alleged that even police collect gold from the illegal miners to sell it. One miner indicated that he was worried that he was getting old and it will become difficult for him to go down and work to put food on the table and he does not have South Africa ID for him to get pension money. Those who don’t have skills for mining collect scrap and sell it so that they can buy food, others do crime for living .Most of them in the area have resorted to alcohol to try and take away the problem they are facing.

The Councillor for the area said there were major disputes about community of Daggafontein. He said most of them are foreigners and they can’t help them but to deport them to their home countries.

The community of the area are not happy with the councillor . They have been telling the councillor to resign since he is not helping them but busy making empty promises.

Meshack explained what he understood the problem of abandoned is about and what we should be doing as monitors:

“ A large part of the problem is that government is not concerned about doing anything about the problems the people face. Unfortunately we are faced with a Capitalist Government who is inconsistent, inefficient, not accountable, unfair and corrupt.

We need to help the community one way or another to strengthen to keep fighting for their human basic right.

The negative impact we are witnessing caused by human activities such as mining in Daggafontein community caused poverty and the open shaft is dangerous to the community especially the children who are all over the place. This demonstrates that we require the most far reaching structural reforms carried out by the mine that use to own the place and the government department that deals with mining in this case the DMR. “