Back to list / Displaying 15 through 15 of 97 / Previous / Next
Ilan Godfrey Photography Born in 1980 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
Hidden away in the bush and trees that grow near the mine dumps in the gold mining town of Welkom, Mpho lies in wait for her next client. She is 25 and works as a prostitute. Originally from Lesotho, she arrived in Welkom in 2011 and lives in Rheeder Park. She says, ‘I came to South Africa to find work. My clients are white men from town, mineworkers and Zama-Zama informal diggers.’ Mpho is fortunate to have had no bad experiences but her work colleagues paint a bleak picture. Many have been raped at gunpoint, robbed of their money and cellphones, and beaten. One of Mpho’s colleagues says, ‘We are not safe. We try our whole level best to do everything we can to survive in life, because we are struggling.’ Rheeder Park, Welkom, Free StateSandile Dlamini, 24, lives in the Payneville squatter camp in Springs. He used to work as a miner at Grootvlei Mine before it closed in 2010. Sandile showed me an unoperational ventilation shaft, ‘No. 8’, which is used by illegal miners as an access to Grootvlei Mine. From here shaft ‘No. 4’ is accessible, the main shaft where one can find gold of a higher value. Sandile says, ‘Men have fallen to their death trying to climb into this shaft.’ He adds, ‘The conditions are unbearable and you can stay underground for six months to a year and only come up for food when it runs out.’ The men who organise the illegal mining are Zimbabweans and are known as ‘Kingpins’. They take the diggers to the shaft and collect them once work is complete. Payment depends on how much gold is found, one gram of gold being worth about R350. The Kingpins supply the miners with food and water, for which they pay inflated amounts. Health and safety regulations are nonexistent, oxygen is limited and there is the constant risk of being caught for illegal mining or of the shafts collapsing. Life for these miners can often become violent, as they fight for the best digging positions. Payneville, Springs, GautengIn addition to the Witwatersrand, gold was also discovered in ‘Black Reef’, which runs along the banks of the Klip River, a tributary of the Vaal. The town of Meyerton was officially proclaimed on 6 June 1891. It now has a population of 12,000. Meyerton, GautengThe suburb of Diamanthoogte (‘Diamond Heights’) is home to a predominantly coloured community that lives on the outskirts of the diamond-mining town of Koffiefontein in the Free State province. During the summer months children enjoy swimming in the canals, which they refer to as the ‘Long Sea’. The canals carry the overflow of water through the town from Kalkfontein Dam and the mine dam to outlying farms. Koffiefontein became a stopover point for transport riders travelling between the diamond fields in the south and the gold mines to the north during the 1800s. After diamonds were discovered here, Koffiefontein developed into a mining town. The town has a significant military history; it was seized by the British during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War and was later used as a detention camp in the Second World War. Among the internees was John Vorster, who later became prime minister and president of South Africa. The mine has been closed several times over the years but continues to recover some of the most valuable diamonds in the world. Diamanthoogte, Koffiefontein, Free StateJeffrey Ramiruti looks out over a stretch of water that has flooded a large part of the Tudor Shaft informal settlement. The settlement is built on top of mine tailings and is surrounded by land contaminated by mining activities and radioactive dumps, which expose the inhabitants to radiation and dust inhalation. Research gathered by Professor Chris Busby, a world expert in uranium products, has revealed that radiation levels on these dumps are 15 times higher than normal, similar to the exclusion zone of Chernobyl and Fukushima. It is estimated that, countrywide, 1.6 million people are living next to or on top of mine dumps. After eight years of lobbying, thousands of residents of Tudor Shaft are in the process of being relocated to safe land. Tudor Shaft, Mogale City, Krugersdorp, Johannesburg‘King G’ was born and grew up in Kimberley and now lives in the suburb of Homestead. There was a time when he made a living from buying and selling diamonds from informal diamond diggers in the area. He now earns his way entertaining crowds by spinning and drifting his classic Mercedes at the Monster Mob Raceway. A diamond digger from the Colville area says, ‘The buyers come and see us, we cannot go to their houses, they check the diamond at the car, we are pleased we get something to eat and maybe buy groceries for the kids or something to wear. Our children went to school this morning without a little coffee or bread.’ Transvaal Road, Kimberley, Northern CapeMahlomola William Melato rests during the heat of the day at his home in Oppenheimer Park. Since being diagnosed with silicosis, Mahlomola’s weight dropped from 80 kg to 49 kg. He suffered from shortness of breath, a debilitating cough, general body weakness and discoloration of the skin. In 1986 Mahlomola began an apprenticeship at the Harmony Gold Mine in Welkom as a boilermaker. After completing his apprenticeship in 1990, he became a teacher but returned to the mining industry in 2007. In 2008 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and in 2010 with silicosis, previously known as miner’s phthisis, and was laid off from his job. He said, ‘Young men who started on the mine as an apprentice did not know the risk of TB and silicosis. If I knew the risks involved I would not have worked in the mines.’ Though he signed a Medical Incapacity Agreement with Harmony Gold Mining Company, which stipulated that if he became medically incapacitated he must be given an alternative position as well as medical assistance, neither had been provided in Mahlomola’s case. The only financial support Mahlomola received was R3000 per month from the mining industry retirement fund. This fund needed to cover his medical costs, living expenses, university fees for his children and the bond on his home. He also applied to receive government compensation, but he was notified by the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases that he did not qualify for compensation. Sadly, Mahlomola died on 22 May 2013, and was buried on 1 June. Oppenheimer Park, Tabong, Welkom, Free StateThirty-four white wooden crosses symbolise the slaying of the Lonmin miners at the Koppies in Marikana by the South African police on 16 August 2012. Koppies, Wonderkop, Marikana, North West

Project Description

For more than a century, South Africa’s demand for gold, diamonds, coal and platinum has gone from strength to strength, often shifting in accordance with the political economy and the availability of foreign markets. Mineral exploitation by means of cheap and disposable labour has brought national economic growth, making the mining industry the largest industrial sector in South Africa. The country is recognised globally for its abundance and variety of mineral resources, which account for a significant proportion of world production and reserves.

‘The mine’, irrespective of the particular minerals extracted, is central to understanding societal change across the country and evidently comparable to mining concerns around the world. This en- abled me to channel my conception of ‘the mine’ into visual representations that gave agency to these forgotten communities. The countless stories of personal suffering are brought to the surface and the legacy of ‘the mine’ is revealed.

This is apparent through land rendered unfit for alternative uses such as ecotourism and agriculture, through public health crises within local communities unequipped to cope with the burden of air, land and water pollution, and through the disruptive influence of historical labour exploitation impacting on familial structures and cultural positioning.
Back to list / Displaying 15 through 15 of 97 / Previous / Next