Another legacy of the mining boom is the large-scale internal migration it caused – mostly into unprepared rural municipalities.
Now that the boom has broken, this legacy would probably remain, said speakers at the conference.
“As national government, we have never really sat down and said what the consequence of this internal migration is,” said Neva Makgetla. “We didn’t really plan for that at all.
“People planned the logistics infrastructure and the electricity, but they didn’t plan where these mine workers were going to stay.”
The boom led to the same kind of population shifts into rural areas that happened all over the world, she said.
“We tend to see it as a continuation of migrant labour here, but in fact it is a problem with mining everywhere.”
Tracy Ledger, a research associate at Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies, presented a paper on municipalities that have mining as the dominant component of their economies.
These are mostly poor and dysfunctional with extreme backlogs in service delivery that get exacerbated by the influx of new households after mining investments.
One problem is that municipalities don’t really benefit from mines in their jurisdiction.
Municipalities mostly generate their income through rates, but mines only pay rates in proportion to the value of the surface land – not their operations.
“This is extremely problematic,” said Ledger. “Municipalities really don’t get benefits from these massive businesses in the same way that they do from other businesses. If you have a great big mall in your area, you will get higher taxes and returns.
“Maybe it is time to look at something like the old regional services councils that levy a percentage of turnover of local businesses,” she said.
Not only were new mining centres often in poor, underresourced municipalities, they tended to fall in former homelands, where land is controlled by traditional authorities, said Sonwabile Mnwana, a researcher at Wits University’s Society, Work and Development Institute. This has led to a resurgent insider-outsider politics centred on cultural identities.
The boom in mining on traditional land “has coincided with legislation that empowers the chiefs as custodians of communal property and land”, he said.