South Africa’s mining industry’s second yearly strategic think-tank, the Mining Lekgotla, will this year focus on the areas of transformation aimed at addressing issues of inequality, poverty and unemployment, as well as global competitiveness and skills development, strategic support and advisory membership organisation Chamber of Mines (CoM) head of health services and Mining Lekgotla chairperson Thuthula Balfour-Kaipa tells Mining Weekly.
The Mining Lekgotla is a partnership between the CoM, the Department of Mineral Resources and the National Union of Mineworkers.
“Regarding transformation, the Lekgotla will, within each theme discussed, highlight successes and challenges with the implementation of the Mining Charter. Further, it will look at the mining industry over the past ten years, with the goal of developing strategies to deal with the various challenges identified by mining stakeholders – such as government, labour unions and mining companies,” she notes.
Through participants’ input at the event, strategies can be developed to address industry issues that will be tracked until the next Lekgotla, including topics such as women in mining and skills development, explains Balfour-Kaipa.
Further, there will be a session that will focus on South African policies in the mining industry, such as the proposed amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
Discussions will cover the way in which policy developments, such as the MPRDA Amendment Bill, will impact on the mining industry and whether it will serve the industry’s aims towards growth and transformation, adds Balfour-Kaipa.
Mining Weekly reported in May that State communication organisation Government Communication & Information Systems CEO Phumla Williams said the Bill aimed to enhance provisions for the beneficiation of minerals to promote industrialisation and contribute towards the nation’s objectives of job creation and economic growth as envisaged in the National Development Plan.
“The goal of the Lekgotla is to contribute to finding sustainable solutions for an industry that needs to grow, transform and remain competitive,” Balfour-Kaipa says.
She notes that there are several platforms for industry discussion, which are closed to public participation, such as the Mining Industry Growth Development and Employment Task Team (Migdett), which is meant to address the issues of growth, transformation, employment and any other industry challenges.
The Lekgotla enables the tripartite of government, labour unions and mining businesses to engage the general public as well as other sector experts, nationally and internationally, in order to provide different views and solutions.
“The Mining Lekgotla provides a forum for the tripartite to continue discussions on the industry as a whole, but it also allows the public and other industry experts to become involved,” she says.
Two international speakers will be at this year’s event – futur- ist and business strategist Peter Schwartz and independent Canada-based public policy research and educational organi- sation Fraser Institute director of globalisation studies Fred McMahon.
At the first Mining Lekgotla last year, the main theme was competitiveness, which was underlined by global competitiveness expert and speaker at last year’s event Stéphane Garelli, while other topics included challenges of employment.
The Lekgotla will also include a session on skills development, notes Balfour-Kaipa. She says: “South Africa is faced with the challenge of skills development and part of this is because of the education system. For example, there is a shortage of individuals [who qualify to enter] the mining engineering field, which is technically demanding, owing to low mathematics and science standards in the South African education system,” she explains.
There is also a need for a more equitable spread of individuals in training organisations. She says that more people from previously disadvantaged groups, such as women, need to be involved in training and skills development.
The Mining Charter
The Mining Charter, which is currently under review, as it expires next year, could be a much-debated topic at the Lekgotla. All industry stakeholders are likely to discuss whether the charter is the best tool to achieve the goals of transforming the industry into a more repre- sentative one that benefits as many people as possible.
The new Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Amend- ment Bill to the Broad-based BEE Empowerment Act of 2003, which was passed by Parliament last month, proposes that BEE policies trump charters, such as the Mining Charter, from various sectors. This means that where provisions overlap or there is not sufficient clarity, BEE policies will take precedence, explains Balfour-Kaipa.
“As a country, we will need to find a balance between BEE policies and sector charters,” she comments.
There are unique challenges in every industry, owing to the differences among them. For example, in South Africa, migrant labour and its manifestations are more prevalent in the mining industry than in other industries owing to certain historical and socioeconomic conditions, Belfour-Kaipa notes. The Mining Charter has, therefore, had to make provision for unique issues, such as the specifications on the conversion of hostels to family units or limiting occupancy to one mineworker per room.
“The effects on these amendments will depend on how much the Bill will allow charters to govern their sectors. A mining charter is still necessary because of the uniqueness of the mining industry. For example, the mining industry has different targets for the number of women employed in the mining indus- try, compared with retail,” she says.
This is as a result of mining, particularly underground ope- rations, being labour intensive and employees being required to meet strict fitness requirements. “The rigorous fitness requirements mean that fewer women meet these requirements at present,” explains Balfour-Kaipa.