An African Mine Workers' Union was created for the first time in 1941, slowly growing to 25,000 members by 1944. The union’s efforts to improve wages fell on deaf ears at the Chamber of mines. After a series of work stoppages in 1943, the government appointed the Lansdowne Commission to investigate the wages and conditions of African miners. The union called for an end to cheap migrant labour, payment of a cost of living statutory wage minimum, and an end to division of the workforce by tribe, the compound system, and restrictions on freedom of movement. The Chamber of Mines however insisted on the industry's dependence on cheap migrant labour, claimed wages were adequate because workers were fed and housed in the compounds and declared itself unable to raise wages without harming the national economy.
The Commission, following investigation, recommended a marginal increase in wages, but found itself unable to recommend recognition of black unions or the abolition of migrant labour – lest mine profitability be harmed.