The Blue Cloud

There are very few citizens in Prieska who have not been touched by the scourge of asbestos mining.  At the end of the 19th Century, asbestos mining began near this small town in the Karoo.  The mining operations were owned by a British public listed company called Cape PLC.

Asbestos is a killer.  Its tiny fibres enter our lungs and cannot be processed.  They create cancers and a debilitating lung disease which leads to a painful death.  This was not known when the mining began in earnest just after the Boer War.  Thousands of people who mined and processed asebestos died.  It was often noticed that a blue asbestos cloud would hang over Prieska, truly a cloud of death.

A local Doctor, Pickard reported that many of his patients suffered from lung diseases during the war years in the 1940’s.  The war government under Smuts ignored Doctor Pickard’s findings because asbestos was seen as vital to the war effort.  Subsequent nationalist governments corruptly refused to do anything about this scourge and mining operations only closed in 1979.

The local citizenry organized and fought a series of court battles for compensation and eventually, at the turn of the 21st Century the British House of Lords ruled that compensation must be paid to victims of Cape PLC’s mining activities.

The predations of a large, international mining house upon local citizens are, in this case, clear.  The company fought tooth and nail to deny compensation to its victims.  The local citizenry united and succesfully fought a powerful and wealthy enemy.  This is why the Prieska Protocol represents such a revolution in mining.  The Prieska Protocol is not a large multinational mining company but a set of agreements amongst stakeholders to share the value of mined stone.

It is fitting that the Prieska Protocol, a model of shared value, should be based in Prieska and the local municipality of Siyathemba, where so many of its citizens suffered and died from a predatory multinational mining corporation’s greed.

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