Multistep process to social commitments needed – Xstrata executive

5th August 2011 By: Jonathan Faurie

Mining giant Xstrata reports that a multistep process to address social commitments is key to drive the industry forward.

This will be vital in giving local community members a sense of belonging and ownership in mining projects, rather than a sense of being just a normal worker.

Xstrata executive director Andile Sangqu reports the steps to be taken are simplistic in nature but will make lasting changes to communities.

The first step is the development of concrete targets that will realise development visions. In the past, industry only identified constraints that were preventing companies from reaching community commitments, he says.

The second facet is one of identifying areas of faster growth.
“In the past, the gold and platinum sectors were the areas of fastest growth. However, South Africa is endowed with many other key minerals that can be seen as key growth areas. These include coal, manganese and iron-ore. “Once industry can identify these minerals, it can engage with government to develop an inclusive strategy to boost these industries,” says Sangqu.

In explaining the third step, he points to a problem which has been identified in the past – lack of communication.

He says mining companies only communicate with the Department of Mineral Resources about communities and community development. But there are other departments that need to be engaged, such as the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and the Department of Environmental Affairs. This lack of communication is resulting in the mining industry missing massive opportunities to regain its rightful place in the international sphere.

The fourth facet is closely linked to the first, where companies need to comply fully with the regulatory processes that govern mining, particularly when it comes to water use licence certificates and environmental compliance.

He adds that communities also have a role to play with regard to this.

“If communities know their rights when it comes to legislation which governs the issuing of mining licences, they can act as an extended arm of government, as most of South Africa’s mines are in rural areas and it is impossible for government officials to be everywhere at a particular time,” says Sangqu.

The final aspect is the role that mining companies can play in helping government realise its Rural Development Strategy. As pointed out, with mining projects located in rural areas and with the cash flow at mining companies’ disposal, they can play a role in making good on commitments made by government in 1994, when South Africa’s first democratically elected government was established, says Sangqu.

“As much as communities point to government saying that it is their responsibility to develop communities, citing the misappropriation of taxpayer’s money, it is unfair to put this responsibility solely at government’s doorstep. It is the responsibility of both government and mining companies to help develop rural communities to a stage where they can be meaningful contributors to the gross domestic product,” says Sangqu.