The effects of mine downscaling (and closure) on the socio-economic development of mining communities: the case of Oranjemund
Ndeleki, Christerline N.
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The research investigates the socio-economic effects, associated with mine downscaling (closure) and understanding community perceptions, risks and opportunities in Oranjemund. Oranjemund is a mining town under transformation, since the mining operations are downscaling and projected to cease operations in 2022. A qualitative research was used by administering open-ended questionnaires and face-to-face interaction with officials from the local mine leadership, local authority, business and local community, mine union, a consultant and non-governmental organisations, in order to collect the required data. Using both purposive and snowball sampling, the first point of contact was the Constituency Office, where a list of names was obtained and participants were purposefully selected to take part in the research. Focus group discussions and individual in-depth interviews were the method of data collection. The interviews used guides, which set out the themes according to the study objectives. Secondary information was obtained by reviewing documented literature, government reports and website articles. The negative consequences of mine closure on the socio-economic aspects of a community include reduced quality of living standards, upsurge in out-migration, emergence of crime, poor and inadequate infrastructure, loss of employment and income, less employment opportunities in the area and reduction in buying power. The positive effects of mine downscaling include accelerated focus in local economic initiatives for economic diversification and potential assessment studies. The findings suggested that the key characteristics that render local economic development by mining operations ‘insufficient’, is the lack of community involvement in development. The study findings further suggested that transformation of a mining-led economy requires the involvement of stakeholders including community, local government and the private sector to create a sustainable economy post mine closure. The study found that mining operations somewhat contribute to local economic development. It also showed that mining communities are at the receiving end of negative effects imposed by mine downscaling and closure. The study also shows that communities do not perceive mine downscaling and closure positively, as they feel that their livelihoods are threatened. The recommendations emphasised strong investment in social infrastructure and participation of communities in development. Lastly, the crucial role of comprehensive legal framework on mine closure was highlighted for the mining industry.