Mining, housing and welfare in South Africa and Zambia : an historical perspective


This paper seeks to place the relationship between mining, housing and welfare in historical perspective in two Southern African countries with long histories of mining activity that continue to have large mining sectors, namely South Africa and Zambia. Mining capitalists and colonial, as well as apartheid, governments tended to resist urban permanence, but they were usually unable to stop it. Economists and social anthropologists, being less conscious than historians of the cyclical nature of mining, have been prone to discount the remarkable tenacity of the Zambian Copperbelt's urban residents in the face of mining downturns. By contrast, very little attention in the literature has been paid to the decline of gold mining in South Africa. In view of the Zambian precedent for urban resilience, it would be unwise to overlook the continuing influence of South African mining on urban settlement in spite of the industry's gradual decline over the last four decades. The patterns of development of new platinum mines in South Africa and new copper mines in Zambia show certain similarities and historical continuities, including a reluctance on the part of mining companies to accept responsibility for the housing and welfare of all their workers and their families.


Macmillan, H. Mining, housing and welfare in South Africa and Zambia: an historical perspective. Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2012) 30 (4) 539-550. [DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2012.736782]

Mining, housing and welfare in South Africa and Zambia : an historical perspective

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