Local communities and health disaster management in the mining sector
Van Wyk, David
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Mining activities throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have impacted on the health and safety of mining communities for many decades. Despite the economic contribution of mining to surrounding communities, a huge amount of social and environmental harm is associated with the industry. In this regard, mining companies have, on the one hand, contributed toward improved social development by providing jobs, paying taxes and earning foreign exchange. On the other hand, they have been linked publicly to poor labour conditions, corruption, pollution incidents, health and safety failings, as well as disrespect of human rights. The objectives of this study are to give an overview of social and natural factors relating to health disasters in selected communities in the mining environment. Regarding the findings, this paper focuses on the social and natural factors involved in the creation of health disasters. The social factors include poverty, unemployment, poor housing and infrastructure, prostitution and a high influx of unaccompanied migrant labour. Major health issues in this regard, which will be highlighted, are the extraordinary high incidence rate of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), addiction and mental illness. The environmental (natural) threats to health that will be discussed in the study are harmful particles in the air and water, excessive noise and overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions. In conclusion, the paper also finds that communities need to be ‘fenced in’ in terms of health disaster management instead of being excluded. Specific recommendations to mining companies to reduce health and safety disasters will be made to conclude the paper.