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Western Limb are asking and answering the question: what will the Western Limb look like in 20 to 30 years time when the platinum group metals have been mined out and the mines have been closed?

One of the key areas we are focussing on is academic research.  (The other two areas are community engagement and performances and interviews.)

Why academic research matters

Western Limb wants to connect communities to the policy debate, and the policy debate to the communities.

From our experience with the policy debate around mineral resources in South Africa, one of the most frustrating things is how difficult it is to get decent information to inform the debate.  It is out there, but compiling it and keeping track of it is hard work.

We want key information to be available and accessible on http://www.westernlimb.org.  And we want to present it in a way that is easy to understand, remember and act on.

We want to build up an online library of good information that matters, that provides the information that will really help us to plan for the future of the Western Limb region.

We are starting off with three initiatives in this area: (1) an interactive map, (2) interactive timelines and (3) infographics.  

(1) The Western Limb Map

We are creating a collaborative and dynamic map that tells the story of the area through its geography.  The map can be amended, updated and expanded in a quickly changing environment.

We have a map, prepared in collaboration with experts in the area, that shows most of the platinum mines, including who owns them, some of the major traditional and ethnic communities near to the mines, and state facilities.

We want to develop the map so that it becomes a useful, creative and fun way to explore and learn the area.  As we add more information to the map, we will add new features to it to make it easier to navigate and explore.

WL map(2) Interactive timelines

Timelines are useful.  They are also easy to create, amend, supplement and use. 

We made one sample timeline showing the history of the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  We are excited about making more of these.

The timeline feature that we are using is really simple.  You use a Google spreadsheet to  plug in all of the information that goes onto the timeline.

WL timeline spreadsheet

And then whoosh! Using free stuff we found on the internet and adapted for purpose, you get an interactive timeline with dates, pictures and sources.  Amending or adding to the timelines is as easy as amending the spreadsheet.  To create more timelines, just make more spreadsheets.

Royal Bafokeng Nation Timeline

(3) Infographics

Much of the information in the area of mining, communities and the state is in written documents.  However, most of us process information better visually.  Western Limb wants to take some of the most relavent written information, and recreate it, visually, for a wider audience.

We started by taking some excellent original research by Professor Andy Manson of the North West University.  Professor Manson looked at the business ventures that have emerged between traditional and ethnic communities and the mining companies in the Western Limb, as well as legal disputes that have arisen in these communities relating to leadership succession under traditional rules, land ownership and financial management.  We produced a one page infographic that provided an at-a-glance overview of the content that Professor Manson addresses in detail.

Professor Manson's research

If you would like to publish your research on the Rustenburg platinum mining area on westernlimb.org, or are interested in helping us to convert written academic research into map entries, timelines or infographics, please get in touch with us on future@westernlimb.org.

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