Addressing Environmental Injustices in South African Artisanal Gold Mining

Inga Carry, Melanie Müller
DOI number

#Social and working conditions
#Sustainability standards

Around 30,000 artisanal miners (Zama Zamas) work in and around active and abandoned mines in South Africa. However, weak governance and oversight of illegal mining have resulted in lawlessness, insecurity, and hundreds of deaths over the years. These mining sites have become some of the most violent and hazardous in Africa, plagued by issues like gun violence, child labor, prostitution, water and air pollution, and radioactive waste. This chapter explores the situation of Zama Zamas and the growing environmental, health, and social crises tied to illegal mining within a theoretical framework of environmental and social justice. It argues that the fate of Zama Zamas is closely linked to the ongoing environmental injustice in post-apartheid South Africa, examining the connections between race and class-based discrimination and environmental injustices in the gold mining sector, particularly concerning migrant workers from neighboring countries. The chapter also investigates governance challenges in the South African mining sector and proposes a framework to systematically address environmental justice issues. The research is based on thorough desk research and expert interviews with stakeholders involved in gold supply chains, public entities, international organizations, and civil society representatives.


Inga Carry

German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

Melanie Müller

German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

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