Photographer Ilan Godfrey and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA) have launched a new website called ‘The Platinum Belt’ which investigates the human, social, environment and health costs of platinum mining in South Africa.
Godfrey is an award-winning South African photographer whose worked on extensive issues that reflect South Africa’s constantly changing landscape, documenting the country with an in-depth, intimate and personal conscience.
In 2016, Godfrey spent several months documenting the stories of people living in mining affected communities across the Platinum Belt, otherwise known and the Bushveld Complex. This area hosts 80% of the world’s platinum resources.
With the help of an extensive network of environmental activists and community leaders Godfrey was able to engage with the community on various personal and emotional issues affecting their daily lives as a result of platinum mining.
Godfrey says, “I was originally drawn to the way in which mining stamped its mark on the environment, but my experiences soon exposed something deeper: land rendered unfit for agricultural use; a public health crisis within local communities ill-equipped to cope with mining-generated air-, land- and water-pollution; and the disruptive influence of systematic labour exploitation on traditional cultural and familial structures”.
The Platinum Belt website allows users to explore a map which depicts the three “limbs” of the platinum belt, where each individual story is marked. This allows for an understanding of the geographical proximity of mining activity to living areas. Below are snippets from two such stories:
Sekgantsho has lived in Moroke Sekutlong Village her whole life. She and her three children rely on water collected from the Motse River for cooking and washing. Sekgantsho now believes that the small quantity of water she manages to collect from the stream is polluted and has no choice other than to buy water, which she can ill afford. “My family and I are very sick from drinking this water, we all suffer from diarrhea.”
“Makeshift pillars and support beams precariously hold together Cuthbert’s home. Mogalakwena Platinum Mine’s relentless mining activity that continues to encroach on his community has begun to inflict noticeable damage to the 500 homes of Ga-Chaba. Cracks riddle the foundations and walls, with very little that can be done to curb the ongoing explosive vibrations that ripple through the village.”
Explore the full site at: http://platinumbelt.osf.org.za