JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Workers could and should be made part owners of South Africa’s mines, says scenario planning consultant and former Anglo American executive Clem Sunter in a Chamber of Mines- (CoM-) sponsored mass-media article.
In the second of a five-day CoM print campaign on what the mining industry got wrong, Sunter cited narrow black economic empowerment (BEE) as the area in which the mining sector had conceivably “got it most wrong”, by favouring a few individuals at the expense of exploring employee share ownership programmes (Esops).
In the double-page broadsheet advertorial, Sunter suggested that South African mines adopt the John Lewis UK retail chain’s employee-ownership model, pointing to John Lewis outperforming its market peers.
Its “partner” employees, who co-owned the company, also took home more pay than employees in competing chains.
He disagreed with unions that employee ownership represented a conflict of interest and regarded Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore Esop as South Africa’s best profit-sharing example. Kumba last year turned its 6 000 employees into half-millionaires in a R2.7-billion payout.
“When BEE was under discussion all those years ago, employee share ownership did not feature on the agenda. Instead it was all about banks and how the deals could be put together and who the individuals were whom the banks would finance to buy the equity stakes…but it could have been handled differently.
“Rather than a few individuals benefiting, ownership could and should have been widened to make the workers part owners of our mines,” he said.
Cadiz's John Major said in his article that there was evidence to implicate the main components of the mining sector – companies, unions and government – in wrongdoing over the years, in that companies could conceivably have kept open many of South Africa’s 6 000 closed mines and shafts, unions had killed, maimed, burned, wrecked and intimidated, while government had failed to enforce its Constitutional values.
The CoM's five-day mass-media charm offensive is aimed at convincing civil society that the multitrillion-rand South African mining sector is worth fighting for.
CoM CE Bheki Sibiya admitted in the first of the double-page broadsheet advertorials that the mining industry had often been fraught with exploitation and conflict but expressed the conviction that the South African mining industry could once again be made the “envy of the world”.
“I am resolute in my belief that it is possible to create a mining sector that grows and develops our country while attracting investor support,” Sibiya added.