South Africa's gold mines are the largest and historically among the most profitable in the world. Yet at what human cost? This book reveals how the mining industry, abetted by a minority state, hid a pandemic of silicosis for almost a century and allowed miners infected with tuberculosis to spread disease to rural communities in South Africa and to labour-sending states.
In the twentieth century, South African mines twice faced a crisis over silicosis, which put its workers at risk of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis, often fatal. The first crisis, 1896-1912, saw the mining industry invest heavily in reducing dust and South Africa became renowned for its mine safety. The second began in 2000 with mounting scientific evidence that the disease rate among miners is more than a hundred times higher than officially acknowledged. The first crisis also focused upon disease among the minority white miners: the current crisis is about black migrant workers, and is subject to major class actions for compensation.