Before and now: the contrast in miners’ living conditions

Marelize Santana -- Thu, 11/22/2018 - 16:17

Before and now: the contrast in miners’ living conditions

Crammed into tiny rooms in same-sex hostels, away from their partners or families and without proper access to water, electricity or sanitation, South African miners used to live in appalling conditions. Today, the situation of miners at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg has improved markedly, although there are still challenges, as a North-West University (NWU) research study shows.

Prof Hendri Coetzee, manager for engaged research in the office of Sustainability and Community Impact at the North-West University (NWU), recently conducted his fourth study of living conditions of mineworkers at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg.

“The main aim of this six-month study was to assist the mine with their housing strategy,” he says.

Impala Platinum commissioned Prof Coetzee to conduct a baseline study in 2013, followed by studies in 2014 and 2017. The findings from the 2017 research revealed that a number of miners were moving from formal to informal settlements. This worried management at the mine, who asked the NWU to conduct another study earlier in 2018.

17 000 miners take part in research
The 2018 research had two focus areas, a census where approximately 17 000 miners took part, and a more targeted survey of 1 000 miners.

Prof Coetzee says the census assessed the living conditions of miners who receive a living-out allowance from the mine, while the questionnaire investigated the reasons why the miners choose to live where they live.

Twenty field workers assisted him to collect information for the census and survey using tablet computers. Once a week, the field workers would “sync” the information they collected to Prof Coetzee. Gerda Schilling from the NWU’s IT department helped him verify the massive volume of data collected.

The findings from the census showed that 98,8% of the participants who receive the living-out allowance live in and around Rustenburg. The results also indicated that a large number of the miners who received the allowance lived in a formal structure and most of them had access to water, sanitation and electricity.

The findings from the questionnaire were specific. They indicated that most of the miners seek cheap accommodation close to their place of employment. “The miners want to live as inexpensively as possible so that they can send money home, because 68% have houses in other cities or towns or in other provinces or neighbouring countries,” he says.

The research also looked into the emotional, psychological and social well-being of the participants. The findings showed a slight increase in the number of people who were not doing well, but there was also an increase in the number of people who are flourishing as compared to the 2013 study.

“Most workers at Impala have proper living conditions. Although their general well-being and satisfaction with life is down, it is still acceptable when compared to similar communities.”