New report reveals devastating human toll of Blyvooruitzicht Mine liquidation

The Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine used to be one of the world’s largest and most profitable mining concerns, purportedly yielding some one million kilograms of precious metals over its 70 years of operation

The human toll of the abrupt closure of the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine in 2013 is devastating, according to a new FIDH and LHR report. The two human rights organisations documented a widespread and precipitous decline in both environmental and socio-economic standards, since the Mine’s collapse. FIDH and LHR condemn, in their report, the role of corporate and state actors who did not comply with their obligations, abandoning the community of 6000 residents.

“The catastrophe at Blyvooruitzicht is the result of a toxic cocktail involving private sector abdication of responsibility, inadequate implementation of the existing legislative framework and lack of anticipation of the severity of the impacts of a sudden liquidation of a major mining operation,” affirmed Michael Clements, lawyer and head of the Environmental Rights Program at LHR.

The Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine used to be one of the world’s largest and most profitable mining concerns, purportedly yielding some one million kilograms of precious metals over its 70 years of operation. The report reveals that today 75% of the community is unemployed. Close to 60% of them reported not having enough money to buy food, and a similar percentage reported being unable to support their children. All community members face problems of regular access to water and electricity.

“We have been dumped by the government and the gold mine,” said a member of the community interviewed during the research process.

The report calls upon current and former owners and operators of the mine to mitigate and provide redress for the violations faced by residents of the village. It encourages government authorities to sanction the corporate failures to implement social and environmental rehabilitation measures. The report also reviews the current legal and institutional framework of mining and insolvency law, in order to avoid this situation from being repeated elsewhere.

The exploitation of gold has shaped South Africa’s natural landscape, its socio-political history, and its economic trajectory. As the gold mining industry enters its twilight years, this report alerts us all to the human toll from unforeseen closure and down-scaling of mines. If the experience of these individuals is a template for the scores of other mining communities which exist in South Africa, the next decade will produce similar crises on a much wider scale.

“Companies cannot show up, extract resources from the land, benefit from the labour of the people, and then just leave. They have responsabilities and legal obligations,” stated Alice Mogwe, FIDH Secretary General.

The Blyvooruitzicht story is an urgent appeal to mining-based economies across the continent. To avoid companies abdicating their responsibilities, our organisations call on states to adopt strong legal frameworks and enforce human rights and environmental obligations. The authorities must also make mandatory the implementation of mitigation and environmental rehabilitation measures before the initiation of any liquidation process.

Source: International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

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