Mining sector needs visionaries, revolutionaries – by Melissa Fourie ( – March 18, 2020)

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s mining industry finds itself in a perfect storm: disruption caused by state capture, a failing Eskom and an economy in recession, a global energy transition juggernaut, a climate emergency – and more recently, coronavirus.

Moreover, communities affected by the worst impacts of mining are increasingly organised, and not only calling for a complete overhaul of mining laws, but are winning the battle in court for the right to say no to mining.

Creating a vision for the future of mining that progresses human well-being and sustainability has to start with some honesty. Not delusional platitudes about a “sunrise industry”, but a frank acknowledgement of the industry’s contribution to the social and environmental crisis we find ourselves in today.

First, at the heart of the myth of mining as a sunrise industry is the assumption that we should overlook the human cost of mining: the exploitation of labour, the devastation of livelihoods and well-being in mining-affected communities, and the failure to distribute mining profits equitably. Our current model of mining has indisputably contributed to the crushing inequality we see in South Africa today.

Second, there is no such thing as “sustainable” mining. It is only destructive. Mines use an unconscionable amount of fresh water, and lock in long-term pollution of our water resources with acid mine drainage.

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