8 Killed in SA Gold Mine Whilst Troubles Continue in Tanzania

Thursday, 6 February, 2014

A fire that broke out in a South African gold mine on Tuesday has claimed the lives of at least 8 people. The fire occurred in Harmony Gold’s Doornkop mine “following a seismic event that triggered a fall of ground”. One more person is still missing.

The incident will draw further attention to the South African extractive industry, and affirm the demands of workers for higher pay. Harmony Gold is another South African miner facing extreme labour volatility, suffering from strikes last year. Since then the Platinum industry has seen workers downing their tools in search of more pay; a move that was condemned by platinum corporations who unilaterally claimed ‘a strike will not benefit workers’.

With the world’s largest mining conference – Indaba - still going on, ‘Risk’, will be a subject much talked about. Indeed it is a subject touted at most industry and political conferences, but the risk implied at these top end events usually refers to the risk facing corporations or governments. But the tragedy at Doornkop reminds us that the real risk in the industry is the risk faced be those who are under the ground, mining the materials we use in everyday life.

And last week the endemic troubles at Barrick Gold's North Mara gold mine continued, as clashes between security forces and local villagers resulted in one fatality:

"Around 2,000 people armed with machetes, stones and hammers raided the North Mara mine in northern Tanzania on Friday looking to seize its gold, said local police chief Justus Kamugisha."

The North Mara gold mine is one of the most controversial active mines in the world, with several lawsuits ongoing that stretch back several years. The highest profile case currently ongoing relates to the deaths of 6 people killed by North Mara security forces in 2011, and is being arbitrated at the UK's High Court.