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Examining socio-ecological changes associated with coal mining on adjacent communities in KwaSomkhele, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Debates about the distribution of mining industry benefits, relative to the costs they impose on proximate communities occur not only in South Africa but worldwide. Is coal mining an essential tool for economic growth, or is it as some put it a curse for the future generation? Are community members benefiting adequately from the mining industry? Or do the state and foreign companies that invest in African mining projects benefit disproportionately from the externalities they impose? It is projected that South Africa has the sixth-largest coal reserves in the world, with close to 30 408 million tons of reserves. This thesis investigates the political ecology of the mine, and issues, costs and socio-ecological changes imposed by the Somkhele anthracite mine, owned by Tendele as a subsidiary to Petmin, in, KwaMpukunyoni, KwaZulu- Natal. A ‘job creation discourse’ is presented by the mine concerning its role as a development actor and the jobs it creates for locals. However, local and international civil society have raised concerns about the impact of the mine and the distribution of its benefits, particularly the expansion of the mine over an area of 222km2 adjacent to a critical conservation area; the Hluhluwe-uMfolozi national park. This thesis details anticipated, and actual social, economic, and environmental changes imposed by the mine for proximate residents, based on key informant interviews and household surveys in five different communities around the mine. Individual households are selected as the primary sample unit between five different communities Emachibini, KwaSomkhele, eDubelenkunzi, KwaMyeki and Ophondweni. The researcher purposively samples 20-25 households per village for the questionnaire surveys, therefore, having a sample size of approximately 80-100. Findings indicate a discrepancy between a Job discourse on how the Mpukunyoni community benefits, and how proximate villages experience the reality on the ground and highlight a range of risks and externalities related to pollution and environmental degradation borne by the communities. The thesis then goes on to describe the subjectivity of the mining-affected communities as environmental subjects in Mpukunyoni. It argues that understanding the experience and subjectivity of mining-affected communities is important in the broader mining geography of Kwazulu-Natal and South Africa


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.