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Ndwedwe Mission Area, KwaZulu-Natal.
Studies on small-scale mining in communities: Economic value and risks
Poverty is a way of life for thousands of youth in the Ndwedwe district. Many communities depend on subsistence farming and low-paying jobs to provide for their families. Furthermore, a number of people are exposed to various risks related to informal and dangerous mining of kaolin around the Ndwedwe mission area. Kaolin is a fine clay and, depending on its chemical composition, can be used as filler and input in the manufacture and production of several goods including: pottery, ceramics, bricks, tiles, and plastic. Therefore, Kaolin represents a local resource that can help empower Ndwedwe residents. However, they need to learn how to develop it safer and make the process economical for their own community. This reality will mean that the Dr Musa Foundation partners, with relevant stakeholder, must assist the locals with efforts to have this type of trade regulated.
These efforts will create opportunities and potential for economic growth, job creation and the overall development and enhancement within the Ndwedwe area. However, the conditions at these mines are highly dangerous and several people have died due to rock falls in recent years. These mines remain open and still pose risks to many families in the areas. The Dr Musa Manzi Foundation has already formed partnership with local communities, traditional kings across the communities and various schools to conduct geoscience research in these areas, to identify voids and weak zones underground that may pose risks to workers. This project was initiated mainly to protect miners working in these conditions, to help them develop skills, and study the near-subsurface conditions for better extraction of these clay deposits.
If mining is made legal by government, this research could lead to the deployment of safe mining methodologies that will be utilised in the area. For example, before mining takes place, this research may lead to the development and formalisation of procedures that may need to be undertaken in order to determine the nature and scope of mining activities. This project has a potential to create jobs and save lives.