JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africans should see as a patriotic challenge the mining of the remaining 30 000 t to 40 000 t of gold still in the ground in South Africa, which would be a source of great wealth for the country, former AngloGold Ashanti CEO and current Business Leadership South Africa chairperson Bobby Godsell said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Joburg Indaba along with former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president James Motlatsi, Godsell said the mining industry owed it to South Africa to extract as much as possible of the remaining vast gold wealth still underground.
“That’s our patriotic challenge,” Godsell told the 440-strong audience.
Cadiz Corporate Solutions mining policy consultant Peter Major recalled how in the past South Africa had managed to produce gold profitably at $35/oz for as many years and how China had graduated from producing clothing using cheap labour to producing clothing using state-of-the-art technologies, without the loss of market share.
As Randgold Resources CEO Dr Mark Bristow outlined on the eve of Joburg Indaba, South Africa has fallen from being the world’s biggest gold producer 20 years ago, to being number seven today, with 5% of the world market and worsening.
Putting everything into perspective is that even with the current exchange rate pushing R14 to the dollar and the gold price being $1 000/oz higher than in 1995, South Africa’s gold mines are now battling to break into profit.
On the ideal union approach to turning the tens of thousands of tons of gold South Africa still has underground to optimal account, Motlatsi said it would be ideal for unions and mining companies to meet on how many gold deposits remained and to work out how these deposits could be mined economically.
Godsell rejected as “completely crazy” the requirement of black economic-empowerment (BEE) shareholders only being allowed to sell their holdings to other BEE shareholders and the prohibition on the sale of their shares on the open market.
In reality, mines were owned by contractual savings embodied in provident funds and pension funds and managed by fund managers.
The other major weakness of the first mining charter was that it did not grapple properly with the issue of migrant labour, which was worse now than when he joined the mining industry in 1974.
“We have failed with migrant labour,” he told the conference, which is being attended over two days by Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online.
Motlatsi lamented the issue of the thousands of former mineworkers who had been diagnosed with silicosis decades ago but who had never been compensated.
Godsell expressed the view that the trustees of mine compensation funds and provident funds with big backlogs should be warned and if they continued to fail to deal with the backlogs, they should be jailed.