I have, on many occasions, been criticized for posting articles relating to mining and a perceived opinion that I am overly critical of the mining industry as a whole. This particular article is about an incident which occurred in one of the gold mines during the late 1980’s. This incident therefore took place during the apartheid era and it must be seen in that light only.
This mine had been sold to another mining house and yet it went bang the same way many others have done in the interim. The name of the mine cannot be disclosed.
I was employed on this mine in the surface workshop area. Often I had to give a hand with the telephone system because mining telephones seemed to have a penchant to stop working unexpectedly. T
he telephone technician was usually on the run to get the administrative phones working and I usually helped him.
In this case We had to find two telephone lines in the telephone multi-pair cable running between the Exchange and the Admin offices. These cables are ancient and usually in poor condition hence the search and testing can take some time. The distance was about 2.km. I asked the technician why the hurry and was told “The manager wants the line in before next week”.
Odd, I thought. Eventually after about two days we sorted the cable out and tested, all ok.
Then we went to the conference room: there were several of the usual mining pictures hanging on the wall. I was warned not to mention anything which I might see in the room to outsiders. The technician told me he had already connected the wires and all we had to do was connect them to the telephone lines and the equipment, whatever that was. It slowly dawned on me that the lines ran from concealed microphones through probable amplifiers then relayed to the exchange where it will be recorded. A union was to hold a general meeting the next week in the conference room.
The mine management used this ploy to gain information relating to possible strikes etc. apparently some of the microphones might have been concealed behind some of the pictures.
I experienced a feeling of revulsion but fortunately I had little to do there and left. Although the information was rather fuzzy, it was reported that theunion had got wind of the scheme and approached management who was forced to remove the microphones. It was assumed that our own helpers had pulled the plug on us.
Practically nothing remains of this mine due to vandalism and plundering. The workings are non-existent and the Admin buildings have shared the same fate. Good Riddance. A railway line passes through the ruins going nowhere. The staff has left a long time ago and only ghosts haunt those empty shells.
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