The Obscure History of Asbestos Mining in South Africa

Little has been written about the history of the asbestos industry in South Africa, where the mining of crocidolite (blue) and amosite (brown) asbestos was carried out through the period from 1893 until 1996 when the last of the mines closed. During that period the mines of the northeastern Transvaal and northwestern Cape produced almost all of the world’s amphibole fibre. The men, women and children who worked on the mines left few records. In the absence of alternatives, labour accepted the conditions offered by employers – mostly British-owned mining companies. Those mining communities, however, produced the first evidence that exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma, the most lethal of the asbestos-related diseases. This paper presents information on the asbestos mining companies; forms of mine labour; women miners; and labour conditions. Bibliogr., notes, ref.

Title: The Obscure History of Asbestos Mining in South Africa
Author: McCulloch, Jock
Year: 2001
Periodical: Australasian Review of African Studies
Volume: 23
Issue: 2
Period: December
Pages: 8-19
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
Abstract: Little has been written about the history of the asbestos industry in South Africa, where the mining of crocidolite (blue) and amosite (brown) asbestos was carried out through the period from 1893 until 1996 when the last of the mines closed. During that period the mines of the northeastern Transvaal and northwestern Cape produced almost all of the world’s amphibole fibre. The men, women and children who worked on the mines left few records. In the absence of alternatives, labour accepted the conditions offered by employers – mostly British-owned mining companies. Those mining communities, however, produced the first evidence that exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma, the most lethal of the asbestos-related diseases. This paper presents information on the asbestos mining companies; forms of mine labour; women miners; and labour conditions. Bibliogr., notes, ref.