I didn't feel like including everything in the original post lest it bore you, so I thought I'd put the extra details here in case you were interested.
Our surveys revealed fascinating information. While the farmers we surveyed were overwhelmingly against coal mining, the dissension of two farmers, who had given the coal mining company permission to prospect on their land, had sparked outrage in the normally tight farming community. Unfortunately the two farmers refused to be interviewed.
For the most part, the farmworkers were also against coal mining in the area, recognizing the adverse effects it would have on the environment. While many of them mentioned the greater employment possibilities, they declared the long-term health of the land to be their priority. A few exceptions existed, as always do, and I found that many of the younger people I interviewed wanted the mining jobs so that they could make money and move to the city.
Many mentioned education as the major factor in their opinions about mining. Mining companies built schools and paved roads, allowing an avenue into education for the poorest residents. A municipal councilor complained that they had the funds to build schools, but not the land, and the farmers refused to give them land on which to build. This, he said, was to ensure a steady supply of cheap labor for their farms. One twenty year-old I interviewed who was working for a lumber company said he wanted to study math and physics in college, but didn't have the money.
As we made our way around the hills day after day, sometimes spending the majority of our time on the road, the history of the area revealed itself to us.
A coal dump site was our first surprise. Mounds of ten to fifteen feet of coal ash left behind by the previous mining company shocked us into the harsh realities of rural life. The company had left this behind years ago and repeated attempts to get the municipal government to do something had gone unheeded. Most depressing of all, a small settlement of inhabited shacks lay just a few dozen yards away (visible in the left picture). We later saw another dump site just feet from a primary school.
South Africans have the constitutional right to a clean environment. Yet, unfortunately, the polluted water and coal ash had reduced the water supply, poisoned much of the cattle, and had almost certainly had negative health effects on the people in the area.
|They had a lot of dogs|
|Trying some homemade beer with the farmers, a WWF rep, my boss, and my co-intern. Our economist took this picture.|