The deepest gold mine in the world is located in South Africa and referred to as Mponeng. The mine is a staggering 2.5 miles hole in the ground, which 4000 South Africans know as their workplace. It is the closest experience I think a living person can get to hell with temperatures getting as hot as a sizzling 140 º F.
The heat however is not the main reason for concern for the brave mine workers of South Africa and rather it is the disease caused by the dust particles which is having the deadliest effect. The illness is known as Silicosis and is caused by the microscopic particles of dust that are breathed into the lungs of the miners while slaving away in extreme conditions. The gold miners of South Africa have highest reported rates of Silicosis in the world. The symptoms of the disease are a severe shortness of breath and in extreme cases complete respiratory failure.
The mines of South Africa have generated an estimated third of all gold ever mined on the earth. The real cost of accessing this gold has never really been taken into account. The scarcity and demand of society for the scarce resource has pushed the limits of industry and ultimately led to the death of thousands of men from all over Africa.
South Africa’s gold mining industry is distinctly worse off than a decade ago though due to using more workers and achieving less production, the high turnover of workers can be attributed to the overall state of health of the workforce with HIV/AIDS having a major impact on the labour force.
The real cost of gold
Some of the largest mining companies on the planet are operating in Africa and profiting millions of dollars per year, the salaries of the miners are often low and with the conditions they have to encounter on a daily basis one wonders if the real cost of gold is actually worth it.
The South African government is trying to improve the image of the industry by improving the accommodation and social infrastructure for workers. The industry has made notable improvements in safety and its achieving more energy efficient ways of extracting the scarce resource.
The next time someone asks, “How much is a Krugerrand worth?” you might take a second before giving the straightforward and obvious answer.