The Impact of earthquakes on the sustainability of the Mining Sector in South Africa

STATUS: Current
PROJECT LEADER:Van der Bergh, GM (Mr Gray), Owusu-Sekyere, E (Dr Emmanuel)
OTHER TEAM MEMBERS: Booysen, AS (Ms Denise), Hongoro, C (Prof. Charles), Karuaihe, ST (Dr Selma), Jonas, S (Mr Siyanda), Parker, W (Dr Whadi-Ah), Arowolo, O. (Prof ), Sakoane, LI (Ms Lineo)
DEPARTMENT RESPONSIBLE: Economic Perfomance and Development (EPD)


South Africa experienced an earthquake of 5.5 magnitude on the Richter scale on 5 August 2014. The epicentre was in Orkney, Northern West, the province which houses most of South Africa???s mines. Previous research had predicted that there would be an earthquake in the North West province every 10 years not exceeding a magnitude of 5.6 on the Richter scale (Durrheim et al., 2006). It has been estimated that the mining sector in South Africa could be responsible for more than 90% of seismic activity in South Africa (Durrheim et al., 2006). This merits a study into the relationship between seismic activity and mining in South Africa and the sustainability of the mining sector in the future. There are socioeconomic and scientific concerns. Socioeconomic challenges relate to to the resilience of mining communities that bear the direct negative effects of mining activities ranging from health implications, environmental pollution, job losses and fatalities in mining. The scientific (and engineering) concerns relate to the quality of infrastructure in mining communities and whether these are resilient enough to withstand increasing seismic activity and how efficiently these seismic activities can be monitored and predicted. The primary purpose of this study is to identify common ground from the findings of a rapid and exploratory multidisciplinary study for a medium term project, of about 36 months, that could be developed further. Three key objectives of the study are as follows: 1. Develop policy papers on the following thematic areas: Impact of earthquakes (natural disasters) on mining communities and the economy generally; Policy regulatory context relating to mining and quarrying and fracking activities; Socioeconomic impact and the general social infrastructure of mining communities, public health implications, human settlements and the general household economy; Scientific linkages between earthquakes and mining, how this can be monitored and predicted; and Consideration of evidence of links between deep mining/fracking activities and related seismic activities. 2. Present policy papers at a strategic round table session participated by relevant policy makers and experts. 3. Develop a concept note for a 36-month medium term research project to intensely understand the sustainability of the mining industry in light of the impact of seismic activities and similarly triggered natural disasters