Abandoned Gold Mines

AbandonedGold Mines

AbandonedGold Mines

Goldmining was one of the most marketable economic activities in SouthAfrica in the 20thcentury. During this period, the product could be exported todifferent locations where it would earn a lot of revenue for thecountry. In the late 19thcentury, the product was first discovered in the Witwatersrand inSouth Africa where its extraction became a full economic activity.With this resource, it would serve as a source of livelihood toseveral families and a good income for the country as a whole. By2002, South Africa produced 15% of the world’s total gold export.This was the main activity and they got a lot of revenue from theperiod when the activity was still the most marketable in thecountry. From time to time, the economic activity started reducingand there was a total collapse in the last decade.

Extentof abandoned gold mine

Initially,Johannesburg used to be one of the most admired towns in the countrywhere the mines had a lot of tourism attraction sites and there wasso much life in it. Today, the mines have been occupied by criminalswho only shoot and kill people. The places have been reduced todanger and people no longer occupy them. The extent to which themines have been abandoned is so much that the places are no longersecure (Munnik, 2010).

Reasonfor abandonment

Goldmines across South Africa have been abandoned with owners deemingthem unprofitable. Ever since the mines were abandoned, numerousillegal activities have been on the rise. Gangshave emerged that fight for control over the mines to conduct illegalmining and trading of the gold. Apart from gangs, the ecologicalaspects of the area are quite devastating with health hazardscontinually increasing.

Mostaffected areas

Johannesburgin the most affected area of all the areas in South Africa. First,there is a lot of gang in the area doing a lot of illegal mining andthis has been dangerous in terms of security. The current situationdoes not require a civilian to walk in those areas since there is ahigh risk of losing life. Secondly, the environment around theabandoned mines is not safe for any human, animal or aquatic life.The surrounding environment cannot sustain any comfortable livelihood(McCarthy, 2010).

EcosystemGoods and services

Ecosystemhas a lot of advantage in both plant and animal lives. A properecosystem captures sun’s energy properly, makes oxygen, createssoil, helps in cleaning of water and air, helps in pollination andother plant activities. When the ecosystem is properly handled, a lotof advantages come with it. The abandoned mines have differenteffects on the selected factors.


Thelandscape is another aspect that has encountered negative effects.Since the gold is continually diminishing, miners have to dig dipperso as to come across it. In doing so, the landscape is deformed andnot conducive for settlement [ CITATION Ben121 l 1033 ].


TheGold mines have led to constant water pollution where there areseveral minerals which are not good for human consumption. With theincrease in mining and continuous washing of the Gold mines in largewater bodies, the human lives and the aquatic may not surviveproperly from the conditions of the water. Gold mines require largewater bodies for cleaning. The amount of water required may not beavailable for the mines specifically but must be shared with otheractivities (Ochieng, 2010).


Therequirement of the air services are several in the mines. Thepollution of the environment does not require an enclosed area andthis has led to several ventilations in the lines. With theseventilations and openings where air may flow out, the released airare detrimental to the normal life outside the mines to thesurrounding places. The huge difference between the air balancespollutes the environment and affects the normal lives outsideexistence. The huge circulation of air required in the mines cannotbe provided in the enclosure of the mines themselves (Kitula, 2006).

Impactsof abandoned gold mines

Effectson health

Inmines, especially gold in South Africa, people work for money and notconsidering the health hazards that they expose themselves to. Inthese situations, the little exposure to danger is ignored and thisresults in more serious conditions that would bring serious healthissues. In the mines, there is an exposure to water full of harmfulsubstances, from the ignorance of the common people, thirst can bequenched by anything regardless of the condition of the situation.Secondly, the air that the people working in the mines breathe is notas fresh. This air, as seen earlier, is passed to the people notworking within the mines resulting to more serious health hazards.Apparently, most people are not aware of the serious conditions thatthey may be subjecting their health to. The idea of working for moneyat any circumstance reduces the care and the understanding of abetter health. The aquatic life is equally at danger owing to thedifferent conditions and minerals that they are exposed to. Theanimal lives other than human are equally affected from the impureair that they breathe (glass, 2006).


Ecologicalaspects of gold mines also include loss of air quality. The abandonedmines are a hindrance to the quality of air that also impacts onresidents. The air from the mines is not safe for breathing. Thecontamination in the air may lead to different conditions of the bodyand this is harmful to both human and animal life. Apart from that,the abandoned mines are associated with the climate change. Forinstance, when the mines are not closed properly, gases emittedcontribute to global warming by trapping heat within the earth.Effects of global warming are quite vast across different parts ofthe globe (Colvin, 2010). Acid mine drainages are common around themining areas. They create sinkholes, pollute water supplies andmobilize dense metals. Ground water has been polluted thus impactingnegatively on the residents. The aquatic life is also in dangerwhere, when the minerals dissolve in water, they tend to carry someharmful substances to their drainage. The drainage is usually a largewater body where there is a huge aquatic life. This life could beplaced in danger when the amount of the substances is in excess [ CITATION Mar161 l 1033 ].

Effectson employment

Goldmines ensured that a large number of people were employed in therecent past. The percentage of the unemployed people in the countrywas reduced and there was a better means of living. In this case, thegovernment could have provided all the required resources to ensurethat there was proper security and the revenues were high at thattime. Currently, after the mines have been abandoned, there is areduced rate of employment since several factors were affected. Thepeople who used to prepare food to sell in the mines could not sellanymore, the workers at the mines were stopped and the form ofemployment curtailed. The reduced rate of employment has led to somuch insecurity in the mines where gangs still conduct the activitycontrary to the requirement of the government. The reduced employmentrate from the cut source of income has been a reason of increasedcrime rate and poor living standards to the former employees(Oelofse, 2008).

Effecton security

Comparatively,in the previous years, the areas around Johannesburg have enjoyed astable security where there was little disturbance and this brought apeaceful co-existence between the people who lived there. From theclosure of the mining activities, there has been a rise in insecurityin the area. The places that enjoyed constant peace have been reducedto war zones where dangerous gangs live. The government used to offergood security during the period when gold mining was a major economicactivity. The fact that there are several jobs lost without a properway of ensuring a better rate of employment had to affect thesecurity of the people around the gold mines. After abandoning themines, the security within the area was withdrawn giving gangs a newplace of existence (Kribek, 2012).


Inaccordance to a 2011 research, Ecologies of Gold, health issues haverisen as permanent dust as well as mine waste being dumped across theWitwatersrand basin. Residents who live around the facilities haveinfected with skin, respiratory among other health issues resultingfrom the mine wastes. The gold in South Africa is almost running out.In that respect, miners are forced to dig deeper into the grounds toextract the product. This results in generation of more waste thatare disposed within the communities posing health risks. As a matterof fact, by 2013, miners produced 562,000 times of waste as comparedto gold. Roughly 10 years ago, the ratio was 212,000 to 1. As yearsgo by, the rates are expected to rise even more. Digging deeperresults in higher costs of production, more acid mine drainages andmining debris were common. The costs of production do necessarilycorrelate to the prices in the markets. It is for this reason thatmost companies are opting out of the business. For the sake of thelives of the common citizens, the government had decided to evacuatepeople from those areas and this improved their state of lives insecurity but reduced their livelihood. The people could no longerwork in the mines both for safety purposes and from the governmentinvolvement in their security. Since companies were withdrawing fromthe businesses, the hard work of the common people would have beenfutile [ CITATION Mar161 l 1033 ].


Toconserve the environment, there has to be a system in place to ensurecomplete compliance. The danger that the environment is exposed to isnot safe for aquatic, human or animal life. Ensuring that no miningtakes place illegally can reduce the chances of the danger. Illegalminers do not take care of the harm they cause to the environment.Stopping the activity reduces the risks. Secondly, from the currentsituation, there have been some health hazards caused by the formereffects. Diagnosing the likely patients could be necessary so thatthe government can start working on ways to reduce their furtherharm. Equally, from the diagnosis, it would be easier to come up witha way of ensuring that other residents are not affected by the sameeffects. The disposed wastes should be covered or placed in a waythat they cannot affect the lives of the common people. When thewastes are left bare, the environment could still suffer some effectsand this reduces the chances of controlling the health of the locals.This should equally be done to the mines. The holes should be coveredand all the openings closed to reduce emission of toxic substances tothe environment. Constant reduction of the toxic substances from theenvironment can be beneficial after a period of time and this makesit easy to restore a healthy environment.


Therecommendations mentioned above are only effective if strict measuresare put in place to maintain them. Closing of the mines, ensuringproper security, controlling the environment and quality managementof the environment are essential to both human and animal lives. Asmentioned in the introduction, ecosystem has several advantages inensuring proper plant and animal lives. A good care of the same wouldensure a purified environment free from contamination and for healthyliving. Air purification, water, soil and caption of sun are some ofthe major advantages. Embracing the recommendations reduce thechances of having future effects of the degradation effects. Some ofthe later results may be permanent and this reduces the chances ofbetter health of the surrounding. The recommendations are, therefore,beneficial when it comes to future generations and human and aquaticlives. The results may not be directly seen in the humans but theaquatic lives used as food could cause several conditions to thefuture generations. The recommendations save the current generationand the ones to come. Without a proper consideration of therecommendations, the negative impacts of the conditions may cost morecompared to preventing the situation at hand.


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