Examining the socio-economic impacts of mining on the livelihoods of Amajuba District mining communities.
The Amajuba District is among one of the major coal mining regions in South Africa, where the mining activities are limited mainly to coal and quarry. Altogether 11 mining rights had been issued in the district as at 2013, with six operational and five pending. The Dannhauser and Emadlangeni local municipalities are hosts to large mining operations in the district, but surprisingly both fall among the most impoverished municipalities in the province and the country as a whole. While mining activities are regulated with the purpose of ensuring that they play a significant role in improving the socio-economic conditions of the communities in which they operate, there is little evidence to suggest that this mandate has been implemented in the Amajuba District. The current practices and state of affairs in the mining sector within the district do not suggest properly coordinated and legislatively-compliant socio-economic development. This study seeks to reveal and understand the gap that exists between the good intentions of the social and labour plans submitted by the mining corporates when applying for mining rights, and the poor socio-economic development levels that exist in the mining communities of the Amajuba District. The objective of the study is to establish whether the socio-economic development initiatives led by the mines actually do improve the livelihoods of the mining communities and if they are aligned to the development agenda of the local government. In order to understand the mismatch that exists between the social and labour plans and the current appalling socio-economic conditions of the mining communities, the study utilised qualitative research methods for collecting relevant data. Using multi-stage sampling methods, community members’ names were clustered and randomly selected to participate in the study. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions were used to collect data. The interviews were guided by a set of themes that the study aimed to explore. In this case, the themes were around mining and beneficiation of the mining communities. The findings suggested that there was room for improvement and corporate commitment from the mining companies, and that it is crucial to ensure a balance is struck between the needs of the communities and the companies’ needs. The key characteristic that makes ‘mining-led development’ look bad is its inability to meet the communities’ expectations satisfactorily. Mining corporates should address the developmental challenges hindering effective linkages between them and the communities they ought to be serving, as that will have the potential to unlock a sustained corporate mining business in the long-term. The study revealed that it is imperative to recognize that mining entities play a vital role in the national trade flow, and that there is a growing pressure for them to position themselves as uplifters of communities’ welfare as part of their social contribution in line with the Mining Charter’s proclamations. The recommendations also emphasize business practices such as assessments of communities’ satisfaction, which should be conducted regularly to ensure that the relationship between the communities and mining entities stays strong. Finally, alignment with local government initiatives was highlighted as being a crucial aspect of mining-led development.
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