…a mine is a difficult place to learn or teach a principle. As a schoolboy I went down a coal shaft as a guest of the Chamber of Mines, which wanted to encourage children to become mining engineers. For an hour we plummeted into dark heat and noise, passages of shivering wooden pillars, rock ceilings sloping almost to the floor that wept hot water. We passed men bent over their clanging and clattering drills who could not even stand up straight where they worked. To go in and come out of such a place, each day of a short life, was, I suspected, placing too much strain on the human heart. One could do it only if one didn’t know that, in 2011, three Lonmin executives earned the same as the combined salaries of 3,600 rock-drill operators.
In the years since 1994, South Africans chose money, and faith in the growth of gross domestic product, as our country’s story line. It is a strange twist to the narrative that many of the northern mines, despite good platinum prices, are almost unprofitable.