Women affected by coal mining in South Africa speak out

Australia has one of the largest global mining footprints in the world, with Australian companies currently operating many fossil fuel projects in low income countries.

It is women who bear the brunt of the adverse consequences of the fossil fuel industry.

From the sites of coal, oil and gas extraction to the places where natural disasters are becoming more ferocious and frequent, often it is women from marginalised communities that are forced to sustain the costs of the extractives industry while reaping little or no benefits.

Women from the town of Phola in Mpumalanga, South Africa, are among those affected by the fossil fuel industry. Phola is close to several large coal mines, including the Klipspruit mine that is owned and operated by South Africa Energy Coal, a subsidiary of Perth headquartered and ASX listed company, South32.

According to ActionAid South Africa’s 2017 report, “Living next door to the mine,” for women living in mining-affected communities in South Africa the coal industry has resulted in food insecurity, an increased burden of unpaid labour, chronic health problems and terminal illness from environmental pollution, and increased levels of HIV infections.

Gendered impacts like these particularly affect women who may already face intersecting forms of exclusion in towns like Phola due to disability status.

But women in Phola are rising up to take justice into their own hands. The Greater Phola Ogies Women’s Forum is organising with local women to document the impacts of these mines on women’s rights, and demand that the multinational mining companies responsible are held to account.

Lorraine, a member of the women’s forum, recently spoke out about the human rights and environmental impacts she’s witnessed first-hand as a result of mining in the area.


“What are we going to say to the generations that come after us?” says Lorraine.

“Surely they will be asking us, ‘how did it happen under our watch?’”

In South Africa, in order to be eligible for a mining right, mining companies are required to submit a Social Labour Plan (SLP), developed in consultation with affected communities, containing commitments in  respect of human resources and local economic development[1], such as employment and services.

That’s why ActionAid has been working alongside women affected by mining in Phola to hold companies accountable to the social labour plans that they have created under South African law, support these women to movement-build with other mining-affected communities, and act in solidarity with them.

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ActionAid Australia’s latest report, Undermining Women’s Rights: Australia’s global fossil fuel footprint, shines a light on the impacts of coal, oil and gas extraction on women in low income countries.



[1] https://www.wits.ac.za/media/wits-university/faculties-and-schools/commerce-law-and-management/research-entities/cals/documents/programmes/environment/resources/Social%20and%20Labour%20Plans%20First%20Report%20Trends%20and%20Analysis%2030%20March%202016.pdf



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