Preservation or exploitation? : a study of the development of the mining rights legislation on the Witwatersrand goldfields from 1886 to 2008

Stott, J. (2009) Preservation or exploitation? : a study of the development of the mining rights legislation on the Witwatersrand goldfields from 1886 to 2008. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

Elinor Ostrom (2005: 238) assumes that in understanding the make up and behaviour of institutional systems governing natural resources: “Resource users are explicitly thought of as rational egoists who plunder local resources so as to maximise their own short-term benefits. Government officials are implicitly depicted, on the other hand, as seeking, the more general public interest, having the relevant information at hand and the capability of designing optimal policies.” This thesis examines the validity of this assumption through an historical analysis of the deep-level gold mining industry of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. The main focus of the assessment is on the institutions of ownership – that is, the development of mining rights and title legislation between 1886 and 2008. The study looks at the legislations’ transformation and implementation from the perspective of the gold mining industry – made up of the mining finance houses and the Chamber of Mines of South Africa – and that of the state. The transformation of the mining industry’s institutional framework was both a choice by government as well as that of the firms in the mining industry. The theoretical framework is constructed from four areas of economic thought. These include: the neoclassical and Keynesian schools of macroeconomic thought; industrial organisation and its relevance to the relationship between firms and the market; institutional and new institutional economics; and finally property rights. The determinants of policy design and the impact of such design on firms and industry is examined. The development, implementation and use of the aforementioned legislation is examined from two perspectives, namely, that of preserver or exploiter. Throughout the history of this prominent South African industry, the motivation for action from the industry or government has oscillated between the two extremes of preserver or exploiter over the time period examined. The conclusion is drawn on an overall and broad focus of actions – with a strong focus on the most recent developments in mining legislation – post-1992.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Institutional economics; economic history; South African gold mining; mining rights; economics of property rights
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Commerce > Economics and Economic History
Supervisors:Webb, A. C. M. (Prof.)
ID Code:1692
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:22 Jun 2010 09:19
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
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