MAC/20: Mines and Communities

South Africa update

Published by MAC on 2007-06-23


South Africa update

23rd June 2007

The South African government says it will address the appalling attrition - against both communities and workers - caused by current mining operations.

Citing, strident resistance to Angloplat/Anglo American's plans to forcibly relocate up to 10,000 people in Limpopo, and the death of twelve mineworkers at the company's biggest platinum mine since the beginning of the year (five in the past fortnight alone), the current plan is to grant mineshare ownership to both communities and trade unionists.

[see also: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press1529.htm]


SA minister says communities must get more from mining

Business Day

23rd June 2007

COMMUNITIES located near mines and those from which companies draw labour stand to benefit from the government's plan to amend the tax laws to allow them to own shares in mining firms operating in their areas.

The minerals and energy department said on Friday that mining companies had to go beyond the offering of jobs and royalties to affected communities, and they should include share ownership as well.

The mining industry accounts for about a fifth of SA's jobs.

Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said a task team had been appointed to investigate how the laws could be amended to give communities located near mines stakes in mines operating in their areas.

Tax laws on employee share-ownership schemes may also be changed.

Sonjica said the task team, consisting of the National Union of Mineworkers, the Chamber of Mines, the South African Mining Development Association and the department itself, would make its proposal to the national treasury next month. Further consultations would be held with all the stakeholders after that.

Mining companies such as Anglo Platinum face community opposition to developments in Limpopo.

The government's plans to develop diamond operations with De Beers in Northern Cape have also been challenged by communities.

Sonjica said the plan was "a consequence of the Limpopo and Northern Cape experience, where we are seeing communities rising up to challenge the status quo".

"We have taken an in-principle decision to amend the act. There's very little (that) communities are getting."

Chamber of Mines CEO Mzolisi Diliza said the need for community involvement in the mining industry was undisputed. The main question was how they would participate.

Many of SA's mining industry employees are migrant labour. Some of the more than 160,000 people working in the nation's gold mines come from the impoverished Eastern Cape and from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique.

Sonjica said, however, that the immediate challenge facing the mining industry was the rising number of workers who die or are injured in the line of duty . She said the CEOs of mining companies should be held directly responsible for injuries and fatalities that take place in mines in an effort to ensure that occupational safety became a priority.

Occupational deafness and silicosis were also causes for great concern to the department.

"This is unacceptable," said Sonjica. "We want to see more commitment from the CEOs. We can't put profit before people's lives."

She also blamed her department for not enforcing its own laws.

Diliza said the mining industry was in the process of implementing safety best practices.

"The area of safety is not about competition but about collaborating to ensure safety in the industry," he said. With Bloomberg


Anglo Platinum to suspend production at Rustenburg mine after worker deaths

By Robb M. Stewart, MarketWatch

18th June 2007

Last Update: 5:15 AM ET Jun 18, 2007

JOHANNESBURG -- Anglo Platinum Ltd. (AMS.JO), the world's largest producer of platinum, Monday said it plans to suspend production at its Rustenburg mine for about seven days following the deaths of five workers in the past two weeks.

The halt in output is expected to reduce production in 2007 by between 10,000 and 15,000 ounces of refined platinum, with a proportionate reduction in associated byproducts, Angloplat said in a statement to the Johannesburg securities exchange.

"Employee safety is our highest priority, and where extreme steps are necessary we will not hesitate to take action," Chief Executive Ralph Havenstein said.

The company said it will suspend production at each underground shaft at Rustenburg for between five and seven days to implement safety measures, but staggered over a five-week period in order to improve contact between management and employees.

The recent deaths at the mine brought the total so far this year to 12.

Angloplat said that despite initiatives already in place, management in consultation with parent company Anglo American PLC , decided to take immediate action and suspend production.

"The audit of each workplace will ensure that measures are in place to safely implement the suspension of production and will identify and address any new factors that contributed to the deterioration," it said.

Angloplat in 2006 boosted production of refined platinum 15% to just shy of 2.82 million ounces. Output at the Rustenburg Section, located west of Pretoria, produced 942,000 ounces of platinum, 465,600 ounces of palladium and 180,500 ounces of rhodium as well as smaller amounts of gold, nickel and copper.

At 0805 GMT, Angloplat shares were up ZAR13, or 1.1%, at 1,233, in line with an advance in the broader market in Johannesburg.

South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers has in recent weeks condemned what it described as a lack of training and a failure to follow safety procedures at Angloplat's operations, and said it is concerned by what it sees as an increasing number of fatalities and deaths in the mining industry.

NUM and other unions are renegotiating wage agreements with mining companies that are due to expire at the end of the month.

Angloplat has raised its offer to unionized workers in the country to 7%, one percentage point higher than it had previously tabled but still shy of the 15% hike demanded by unions.

 

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