SA minister says communities must get more from miningPublished by MAC on 2007-06-23
SA minister says communities must get more from mining
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