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From the Coalface: A Study of the Response of a South African Colliery to the Threat of Aids

Year: 2002
Working paper number: 005
Author: Kennedy, Carolyn
Unit: ASRU

South African exports of steam coal are the second-largest in the world and her collieries are the third-largest global exporters of coal per se. As such, the coal mining industry accounts for 34% percent of the total output of South Africa´s mining sector. (Survey of Trade and Industry, 1996). The industry is making a valuable direct and valuable contribution to the development of the South African economy, because it provides thousands of jobs and has many backward and forward linkages. The effects of HIV/AIDS in this labour-intensive minerals sector are therefore likely to be devastating. Sub-Saharan Africa has only 10% of the world´s population, yet 83% of world-wide AIDS deaths reported last year were from this region. AIDS is expected to cost 10 million South Africans their lives by 2015 (Mining Weekly, 14/12/2001). The gazette also quotes Southern Africa's estimate in Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) -that 27% of mineworkers will have died of AIDS by 2005. Gold Fields calculates that in its workforce, 26,4% of employees between the ages of 24 and 54 are infected. Platinum producer Lonmin reported a 26% infection rate, while Anglo Platinum test results showed an infection level of 18%- 22% (Mining Weekly, 14/12/2001). It is unclear how the mining houses derived these figures, as testing may be done only with informed consent, and mining unions have advised their members against it. These estimates have led to an admission by the Department of Minerals and Energy that ´there is no clear indication of what the mineworker infection rate is at present…the infection rate cannot be determined on an empirical basis´ (Mining Weekly, 14/12/2001). Given that the average national infection rate for adults at that time stood at 24,5%, these estimates do not seem unlikely. (Statistic quoted by Chamber of Mines health advisor Lettie la Grange in Mining Weekly, 14/12/2001).

Publication file: wp5.pdf