International Development Planning Review

Decline and response in South Africa's Free State goldfields: Local economic development in Matjhabeng

International Development Planning Review (2002), 24, (3), 249–269.

Abstract

Gold mining has played a vital role in the growth of South Africa's economy and the creation of major industrial and business centres such as Johannesburg. In recent years gold production has contracted, leading to widespread redundancies among mineworkers. The situation is particularly serious in the Free State goldfields, which are centred upon Matjhabeng municipality and the city of Welkom. The downsizing and closure of many gold mines has had serious economic and social effects on businesses, communities and individuals. This article examines the crisis faced by Matjhabeng and the Free State goldfields, and evaluates local economic development initiatives that have been introduced to provide employment and diversify the local economy. However, the magnitude of the crisis and the limited success of development initiatives suggest that much more significant and better coordinated interventions will be needed from a range of community-based and business institutions, together with support from provincial and national governments. The experiences of the Free State have wider relevance for other areas in which economic restructuring and job creation are key priorities.

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Author details

Nel, Etienne

Binns, Tony