A report has been published by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic titled “The Cost of Gold: Environmental, Health, and Human Rights Consequences of Gold Mining in South Africa’s West and Central Rand.
The reports states, “The complex web of responsible government agencies and repeated legislative changes to that organizational structure have impeded the development of a coordinated plan to deal with the negative effects of mining. The limited scope of action, inadequate attention to at-risk communities, and insufficient consideration of environmental concerns have undermined the completeness of any response.”
The authors further recommend that given the severe and ongoing nature of the situation, “government should take immediate steps to rectify the inadequacies of its efforts. In particular, it should develop and implement a national-level program dedicated specifically to reducing the adverse effects of mining in the West and Central Rand. If coordinated and comprehensive, this program would help South Africa protect its communities and their environment, meet the country’s legal obligations, and promote realization of human rights.”
The report highlights that the people affected by mining do not have information about mining and its impacts, concluding this “has impinged on their awareness and understanding of the situation and thus magnified the threats they face. It has also deprived them of data necessary to identify better protections for the environment and their health.”
“In many cases, local people have not been informed in advance of mining projects that directly relate to their lives. Parliamentarian Gareth Morgan, shadow minister of water and environmental affairs, told IHRC in 2012 that “the most common email I get from communities about mining is that ‘there is a mine going in down the street from me and nobody told me about it.’
“Community members have also been left out of decisions about policies that affect the environment and their health, a corollary to the lack of notice of new projects discussed above. The government bears primary legal responsibility to ensure residents receive information, yet so far it has largely neglected its duty to “proactively put in the public domain Government information of public interest.” The main conduit of information about mining contamination in the region has been neither government nor industry, but civil society.”
The full report may be downloaded.