South Africa's Gold Mines and the Politics of Silicosis

October 2012
2 black and white illustrations
202 pages
21.6x14 cm
African Issues
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC POL053000, MED079000, HIS047000

South Africa's Gold Mines and the Politics of Silicosis

Jock McCulloch

eBook for Handhelds
Examines the silicosis crisis in the South African mining industry, and reveals how the rate of, often fatal, tuberculosis among black migrant miners was hidden for over a century.
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.

Jock McCulloch was a Legislative Research Specialist for the Australian parliament and has taught at various universities. His books include Asbestos Blues.

Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland & Botswana): Jacana

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Table of Contents

A Brief Chronology - Preface: South Africa in the twentieth dentury
Gold-mining and life-threatening disease
Creating a medical system
A White science
Myth-making and the 1930 silicosis conference
Tropical labour and tuberculosis
Conflict over the compensation system
Healing miners
The sick shall work
Men without qualities


Makes an important contribution to our understanding of the politics of health, work, science and regulation in southern Africa. The issues it raises are not limited to silicosis nor confined to the apartheid period. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING REVIEW

Makes a significant contribution to a vibrant literature. [...] A fine book. SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE

'a path-breaking book . . . required reading for graduate students in Southern African studies - in fact for anyone seriously interested in the history of the African sub-continent.' Professor Dunbar Moodie

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