30-year study shows dramatic drop in infant mortality near sub-Sahara gold mines

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Large scale gold mining in sub-Saharan Africa has reduced infant mortality in nearby communities, with rates falling by 50% among those born within 10km of a gold mine, conclusion new research by Anja Benshaul-Tolonen published in the May 2019 issue of The Economic Journal.

Benshaul-Tolonen’s research finds that local industrial development may be an effective way to reduce infant mortality in developing countries with high mortality rates from poverty.

Drawing on data on women’s fertility records from demographic and health survey and large-scale gold mining data from eight countries over 30 years, the study shows that the average mortality rate in the communities before the mines open is 151 deaths per 1000 births.

This rate drops during the investment of large-scale gold mining and continues to fall following the mine opening. The author finds that the rate drops by around 79 deaths per 1000 births. This is the equivalent of the total gains in infant survival achieved in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s to today.

Many children die of poverty and its consequences with malnutrition and lack of basic health care among the main culprits, the research finds.

According to the author, the significant fall in infant mortality found in this study may come from increases in economic growth and that women living close to mines are 27% more likely to work in the service sector. Other possible explanations include increased health knowledge and access to remedies.

Access the full report here.

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