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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2018

Public health implications of changing patterns of recruitment into the South African mining industry, 1973–2012: a database analysis

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2018
Rodney Ehrlich, Alex Montgomery, Paula Akugizibwe, Gregg Gonsalves
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-017-4640-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
An erratum to this article is available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12889-017-4709-6.



The triple epidemic of silicosis, tuberculosis and HIV infection among migrant miners from South Africa and neighbouring countries who have worked in the South African mining industry is currently the target of regional and international control efforts. These initiatives are hampered by a lack of information on this population.


This study analysed the major South African mining recruitment database for the period 1973 to 2012 by calendar intervals and demographic and occupational characteristics. Changes in area of recruitment were mapped using a geographic information system.


The database contained over 10 million contracts, reducible to 1.64 million individuals. Major trends relevant to health projection were a decline in gold mining employment, the major source of silicosis; increasing recruitment of female miners; and shifts in recruitment from foreign to South African miners, from the Eastern to the Northwestern parts of South Africa, and from company employees to contractors.


These changes portend further externalisation of the burden of mining lung disease to home communities, as miners, particularly from the gold sector, leave the industry. The implications for health, surveillance and health services of the growing number of miners hired as contractors need further research, as does the health experience of female miners. Overall, the information in this report can be used for projection of disease burden and direction of compensation, screening and treatment services for the ex-miner population throughout Southern Africa.
Additional file 1: Supplementary note 1. Reduction and cleaning of database. Supplementary note 2: Comparison of TEBA figures with external sources. (DOCX 25 kb)
Additional file 3: Table S1. Demographic and employment characteristics of mineworkers at first entry recorded on TEBA Database, 1973–2012 (N = 1,625,053). Table S2. Proportions (%) of mineworkers in the gold sector on TEBA database active during successive 5-year periods, by demographic and occupational characteristics, 1973–2012. Table S3. Demographic and occupational characteristics of exclusively mine employees versus those who were recorded as a contractor at some point on the TEBA database, 1973–2012. Table S4. Province or country of recruitment of mineworkers recorded on the TEBA database, by place at first recruitment, 1973–2012. (DOCX 35 kb)
Additional file 4: Figure S2. Distribution of recruits to the South African mining industry at first contract, by district, 1973–2012. (PDF 1370 kb)
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