The latest data provided by the gold mining sector make for grim reading, with employment in the industry down 30% — or 48,000 jobs — since 2009, mirroring the decline in production over the same period. And if we’re not careful, half of the remaining production will be gone in the next five years, one of SA’s top analysts warns. But to blame ever-deepening shafts, declining ore grades and above-inflation increases in labour costs would tell only a small part of the story and would prevent us from learning the crucial lessons offered by the gold sector’s decline. Let’s rewind a decade or so to Eskom’s rolling blackouts of 2008 when mining companies were forced to cut their electricity consumption. On top of this, attempts by some to build their own power stations to reduce reliance on Eskom, which was growing increasingly unreliable and expensive, died a Kafkaesque death somewhere between Eskom, the Department of Energy and the National Energy Regulator of SA.

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