The Project


The Story

In October 2015 the high court in Johannesburg will decide if a class action lawsuit can be laid against 32 gold mining companies in South Africa. Three law firms are representing 69 miners who are applying for this class action. They are applying on behalf of all miners, and their families, who have silicosis or tuberculosis as a result of exposure to silica dust in the gold mines since 1965. 

The Journey

Photographer Thom Pierce journeys through the back roads of South Africa's Eastern Cape and Free State provinces via the mountains of Lesotho to document the people at the forefront of the case against the mining giants. These men and women were either miners or those left behind after the migrant workers contracted silicosis and/or TB on the gold mines. Thom will cover vast distances over the 20 days to capture their stories and images, culminating in an exhibition in the week of the class action certification hearings in Johannesburg on October 12th 2015. 

Below is a map of the area that will be covered on this journey. Miners were mostly migrant workers who travelled great distances from Lesotho and the former Transkei (a nominally independent state during apartheid) to reach the mines where they stayed for months at a time without returning home.  

map data ©2015 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google

Below is a detail of the indicated area in the map above. Marked on the map is the rough location of each of the 69 miners that are named in the lawsuit against the gold mines. 

map data ©2015 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google

The journey will start in East London and finish in Johannesburg in time for the court case on 12th October. Along the way Thom will be posting images, video and stories of the journey and the people people he meets along the way.  Please feel free to comment and share. 

Here is a short film from my last trip to the Eastern Cape, this project is a continuation of the work shown in this film. 

This project is being made in collaboration with the Treatment Action Campaign and Sonke Gender Justice. It is kindly funded by Heinrich Böll Stiftung.