One of the key aims of this year’s Mining Lekgotla will be to determine how the mining industry can stimulate and drive economic growth in South Africa and on the continent, says strategic support and advisory membership organisation Chamber of Mines (CoM) VP Khanyisile Kweyama.
The 2014 Mining Lekgotla will take place from August 13 to 14 at Gallagher Estate, in Midrand, Gauteng, and is a collaboration between the CoM, the South African Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the National Union of Mineworkers. It is a strategic platform for the mining industry, government, labour and other social partners to discuss pertinent issues affecting the sector.
“We are all concerned about the future of this industry, we want to bring stability. To achieve this, the tripartite collaboration of the CoM, the DMR and organised labour need to leverage and harness one another’s strengths during the lekgotla,” says CoM president Mike Teke.
Kweyama agrees, adding that collaboration among industry players is key to ensuring that South Africa’s economy stabilises and grows. She notes that some key outcomes of the parties’ discussions at the lekgotla will hopefully include applying lessons learned from tackling industry challenges to promote investment and increase economic growth.
Teke, who will participate in the opening session, speak at the gala dinner and chair the closing session of the lekgotla, stresses the CoM’s belief that the tripartite collaboration has given credence to changes in the industry and that progress is being made, albeit slowly.
“We believe we are initiating change, but accept that improvements can be made,” he says.
Teke acknowledges that several industry challenges remain on the chamber’s priority list, such as re-establishing investor confidence in South Africa, and ensuring regulatory and policy certainty.
He stresses that the tripartite collaboration is committed to ensuring that investment certainty is created in the mining industry by focusing on regulatory and legislative policies – like the Mining Charter and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act – at the lekgotla.
Further, issues concerning ownership, skills development, community development and transformation, which were highlighted at last year’s lekgotla, will be revisited to elevate the industry.
Teke also points out that there is a need to strengthen trust among key industry stakeholders. He, therefore, calls for a rekindling of trust between government, employers and employees, which, in turn, will lead to collaboration, more effective problem- solving, enhanced competitiveness, increased levels of investment, economic growth and transformation.
“When growth is achieved, we must all take credit, but we must all contribute as well, and when we face these industry challenges, we must take responsibility in dealing with them,” he adds.
Describing the mining industry as the “flywheel” of the South African economy, Teke highlights the industry’s significant contributions in key areas, such as procurement, its 18% contribution to the gross domestic product and its contribution of R28-billion to corporate taxation in 2012. The mining industry also contributes significantly to job creation, having created jobs for about 1.4-million workers, of whom about 500 000 are directly employed in the mining sector.
Teke notes that the average wage of an employee has increased by about 12% a year over the last five years, while about R150-billion in black economic-empowerment deals have been concluded in the last decade with good progress being made on all pillars of the Mining Charter.
Teke also highlights the 70% reduction in the fatality rate over the last 20 years, adding that the mining industry recorded fewer than 100 fatalities in the industry in 2013 – the first time in the recorded history of the mining sector.
Further, despite the industry sustaining the longest strike in South Africa’s history this year, Teke believes the lekgotla will highlight the mining industry as the lifeblood of the economy, especially at regional and national level. “Therefore, its contribution is immense.”
He stresses that, while current global market conditions and the decline in South African gold reserves have led to a less favourable outlook, the country still holds substantial mineral reserves and has significant potential to grow the mining sector by more than 3% a year over the next decade.
“As stakeholders, we need to work together to encourage exploration, realise new greenfield and brownfield projects, and focus on research and development, as the mining industry is considering more technology-driven mining, automation and mechanisation as ways of achieving sustainability,” Teke concludes.