I have been researching illegal gold mining in South Africa for the past few months, trying to understand this illicit industry and see what drives people to become zama-zamas (illegal miners). To help me get a better sense of what their underground lives are like, Spencer put me in touch with Lloyd, the owner of the mine he used to work at. Lloyd granted me a useful interview, and then invited us to visit his mine and meet with some of the illegal miners working on the property. We jumped at the chance, as it was also a great opportunity for Spencer to revisit the site where he worked from 2010-2011.
When not busy traveling and blogging, I have been working on an investigative report about the dangerous practice of informal gold mining here in South Africa. Here is the final story, published by GroundUp, a news website focused on social justice news.
Lethal toll of informal gold mining
While deaths on formal mines have come down, zama-zama fatalities have gone up
With 13.2 million people living in Johannesburg’s province of Gauteng, it’s no surprise that the city is not exactly a refuge for wild animals (these creatures excepted). No elephants wander the streets, no zebras munch on our grass. The roars of the lions at dusk from the zoo down the hill are the closest thing we’ve got to real African wildlife in our neighborhood.
1000 years ago, a city formed where no city had existed before. On the top of a steep rocky outcropping, a king lived with his many wives.
About six years ago, I remember coming across a Youtube video of a golf hole in South Africa dubbed “The Extreme 19th Hole.” I was immediately interested when I saw a thumbnail of the video showing a pro golfer peering over an enormous cliff, looking at a tiny Africa-shaped green below. I knew that some day, I would have to play this crazy par 3.
It’s election day here in South Africa, and the polling station is right up the road from our house. Our landlady and friend Lauren brought me along when she voted, so I got to see South African democracy in action.