Government’s prolonged period of lukewarm facilitation of the South African mining industry has at last given way to red-hot support.
Insiders say that the meaningful turn took place a fortnight ago when, for whatever reason, the penny dropped that the South African mining industry is an indispensable driver of the South African economy.
“Everything we do must be designed to strengthen and stabilise the sector, and ensure that it serves all stakeholders – the investors and owners, workers, government and broader society,” President Jacob Zuma told a special briefing session, called to remonstrate against South Africa’s worrying below-par gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 0.9% for the first quarter of 2013.
The figure indicated the urgent need for the country to strengthen its economic performance and increase the rate of investment.
To do so, the country needed a stable and growing mining industry, the President said.
“Mining remains the cornerstone of our economy,” he said, adding that it accounted for 18% of GDP, taking linkages into account, and generated 60% of export revenue.
Anglo American CE Mark Cutifani “very much” welcomed the President’s support and leadership and his recognition that growth of the mining industry meant growth of the country as a whole.
The highest of top brass from both government and the mining business put their heads together last Friday.
Former miner and now Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has three Cabinet members in his team and intense lobbying is under way with all mining industry participants to do what is best for South Africa.
In another departure from business as usual, the Chamber of Mines (CoM) agreed to talks ahead of talks in that it will speak exclusively to the high-60%-wage- demanding National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) ahead of this year’s crucial formal collective bargaining negotiations, and then follow that up with multiparty precollective-bargaining engagement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Solidarity, Uasa and the NUM.
All this will be in the interests of lowering excessively high pay expectations.