Gold and Diamond Mining of Africa Essay

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* Diamond mining in Africa Ever since the Kimberley diamond strike of 1868, South Africa has been a world leader in diamond production. The primary South African sources of diamonds, including seven large diamond mines around the country, are controlled by the De Beers Consolidated Mines Company. In 2003, De Beers’s operations accounted for 94% of the nation’s total diamond output of 11,900,000 carats. Nicky Oppenheimer, the current Chairman of DeBeers. * The life of the miners The search for diamonds is not exactly easy.

Many miners and diamond diggers in sub-Saharan Africa travel great distances to find work and submit to gruelingly long hours for low wages – or sometimes no wages – in substandard conditions. Child labor has long been a problem in informal diamond mines, especially during times of war. Children have often been exploited to do excavation work because they are small enough to be lowered into small, narrow pits by ropes to dig out sacks of dirt, which is in turn washed by other children in search of diamonds.

During Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war, children were often used as soldiers and workers in the rich Koidu diamond mines that funded the country’s rebels. USAID launched the Kono Peace Diamond Alliance in 2002 to try to improve the working conditions in the mines – particularly for children. But it is an uphill battle across Africa to get children who are either family breadwinners, or fending for themselves or conscripted into slave-like labor to stop working and go to school. A child solider in Africa Land is often cleared and vegetated areas dug up to create open pit mines in he rushed search for diamond deposits, leaving them unsuitable for other farming activities.

Informal mining in hilly areas also leads to erosion – and, in turn, flooding. The salt, heavy minerals and chemical products from mining equipment can run off into rivers and pollute vital water sources for mining communities and people living downstream. * gold mining in Africa South Africa accounted for 15% of the world’s gold production in 2002 and 12% in 2005, though the nation had produced as much as 30% of world output as recently as 1993. Despite declining production, South Africa’s gold exports were valued at $3. billion USD in 2005.

Almost 50% of the world’s gold reserves are found in South Africa. Barrick Gold Corporation is the largest pure gold miningcompany in the world, with its headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and four regional business units (RBU’s) located in Australia, Africa, North America and South America. Barrick is currently undertaking mining and exploration projects in Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Australia, Peru, Chile, Russia, South Africa,Pakistan, Colombia, Argentina and Tanzania. For 2008, it produced 7. million ounces of gold at a cash cost of US $443/ounce. As of December 31, 2008 its proven and probable gold mineral reserves stand at 138. 5 million ounces. Peter monk, the wizard of gold mining

* The life of gold miners The unknown factor in South Africa is the future of labor costs. The mines employ several hundred thousand miners underground: half the production costs are for wages. Most of the gold miners are members of the black National Union of Mineworkers, which is pressing hard both for political and social reform, and for better wages and working conditions for its members.

But the long-delayed beginnings of political reform in South Africa in the late 1980s coincided with a slump in gold prices. The South African gold mines, many of them a century old, were by then the world’s deepest, and were technically very difficult and financially very expensive to operate even in spite of the low wages paid to the miners. The quality of the ore was slowly dropping: the average gold ore now averages less than 5 grams of gold per tonne. Winnie Mandela is on record as saying to black miners, “You hold the golden key to our liberation.

The moment you stop digging gold and diamonds, that is the moment you will be free. ” She could not be more wrong. If the gold mines close, the economic disaster will be visited most on the poorer section of society, the blacks. The South African reforms were predicated absolutely on a stable and healthy economy. In 1999, the price of gold dropped to a low point around $250/oz. This was very bad news for South African gold companies, South African gold miners, and the South African government. Gold companies scrambled to reorganize and streamline their operations.

By the time the price again reached $290 again in early 2000, the gold industry had changed dramatically, in South Africa and globally. Health problems of gold miners who worked underground include decreased life expectancy; increased frequency of cancer of the trachea, bronchus, lung, stomach, and liver; increased frequency of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB), silicosis, and pleural diseases; increased frequency of insect-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; noise-induced hearing loss; increased prevalence of certain bacterial and viral diseases; and diseases of the blood, skin, and musculoskeletal system.

These problems are briefly documented in gold miners from Australia, North America, South America, and Africa. In general, HIV infection or excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption tended to exacerbate existing health problems. Miners who used elemental mercury to amalgamate and extract gold were heavily contaminated with mercury. Among individuals exposed occupationally, concentrations of mercury in their air, fish diet, hair, urine, blood, and other tissues significantly exceeded all criteria proposed by various national and international regulatory agencies for protection of human health.