SUN CITY (miningweekly.com) – South Africa needed to wake up and behold and stop killing itself, Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) CEO Steve Phiri pleaded on Wednesday.
“The platinum industry is seriously bleeding to death, yet we still hear and see people talking and acting irresponsibly,” Phiri said in delivering a hard-hitting keynote address on the second day of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s (SAIMM’s) fifth international platinum conference.
The head of South Africa's only black-owned, black-managed and black-operated platinum-mining company said South Africa’s spheres of government needed to start doing what they were supposed to do as government, with a forward outlook in building sustainable relationships with business and delivering on their promises to the electorate.
He said the labour turmoil was taking place at a time when the platinum sector was faced with unprecedented changes, triggered by the effects of global conditions, primarily in Europe, which were impacting negatively on the platinum-group metals (PGMs) market.
The industry’s response had been the recent cutbacks in capital expenditure, which he said would severely hamper the growth and sustainability of the PGM sector going into the future.
“The foreign investor is running out of this country very fast,” Phiri said, adding that democratic South Africa’s painful birth was quickly giving rise to an unsafe investment destination.
In the interests of South Africa now and in the future, South Africans should join hands “to bring to an end this carnage and lunacy”.
He commended the intervention by the South African Cabinet and described as reassuring the recent statements of the Ministers of Finance, Mineral Resources and Labour, but he accused some ministers of religion of “fuelling the fire”.
He accused the instigators of mine violence and illegal strikes of undermining the cost competitiveness of the PGM sector, which was under pressure to meet its societal obligations.
The time had come for clarity on the roles of business, government, and community and a decision had to be taken on who was responsible for the provision of basic infrastructure services to local communities.
“Intense scrutiny of these roles is long overdue,” he added.
In his keynote address, Xstrata Alloys executive director and energy group chairperson Mike Rossouw said that South Korea’s transformation from 1960 to 2010 had begun from a base far lower than South Africa’s and that South Africa’s economic transformation, which had stalled, needed to be restarted.
It was transformation that teed up a country for sustainable growth into the future and he believed that South Africa’s mining sector was a crucially important transformation agent.
He said the root cause of South Africa’s triple evils of unemployment, poverty and inequality was policy uncertainty and the burden that it placed on business.
Policy needed to have good intention and good implementation and he cited Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act as and example of a policy of good intention but bad implementation.
While a survey had shown that South Africa scored particularly well in the strength of its financial auditing and the efficiency of its company boardrooms, that did not necessarily assist economic transformation.
The answer was for business and government to simplify policy in order to streamline its implementation.
“Simplify, collaborate and implement,” he said.
Rossouw also called for an energy price path that emphasised affordability rather than the current approach of being cost reflective, and said that the power generation sector needed to place more emphasis on improving the efficiency of electricity transmission and on lowering the consumption of electricity rather than increasing power tariffs to unaffordable levels.
He advocated making electricity an engine of economic growth, as was being done in Brazil.
It was also necessary to have total financial transparency within the State-held electricity sector.
SAIMM president Dr Gordon Smith said after yesterday’s Lonmin wage agreement that the platinum industry's smelters were firing up again, refineries were at work and all that was needed was for the mineworkers to resume their task of breaking rock.