Pandemic prevents further engagement on housing draft

28th August 2020

Pandemic prevents further engagement  on housing draft

NICO PIENAAR The surface mining sector represents a large part of the overall mining community

A call for further engagement with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) regarding the 2019 Draft Review of Housing and Living Conditions Standard has stalled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown in South Africa.

The draft standard requires that mines provide suitable housing for mineworkers, something that is not plausible for all mines suggests, surface mining industry body Aspasa.

Aspasa director Nico Pienaar explains that its membership comprises mostly smaller mines with turnovers of between R2-million and R150-million, for which meeting housing demands could prove challenging.

He adds that, in the interim, these mines are taking direction from legislation or from industry associations like Aspasa, but notes that they still encounter difficulties in meeting requirements, as their precarious financial Situation have been further exacerbated by the global pandemic.

“We understand the requirement of the DMRE and have thanked its drafting team for giving us the opportunity to comment.

“Our sector represents a large part of the overall mining community, despite the average size of our mines being small and comprising a team of between three and 50 employees,” says Pienaar.

He adds that the products mined include aggregate, clay, limestone, granite and salt, among others, most of which are used in the construction sector.

Given the small-scale nature of the businesses, the fact that most of them are relatively new and that the mines tend to crop up where infrastructure development is taking place, the majority do not have any hostels.

Pienaar adds that those which did have hostels demolished them in 2014, in line with targets set out in Mining Charter II.

He notes that Aspasa suggests that, in light of the realities of its members’ operations and, based on a housing survey done on the type of dwelling that these employees live in, the smaller surface mining industry cannot build what effectively amounts to small towns or villages, as it will be too great a burden on operations that do not have the funds to do this.

Pienaar adds that its members’ financial instability is, in part, a result of the DMRE granting several exemptions from significant sections of the Mining and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) – in terms of the removal of minerals for construction and maintenance of dams, roads and railway lines – thereby placing “enormous pressure” on the aggregate mining sector with which Sanral competes.

He suggests that members having to comply with the MPRDA while competing with a government company that is exempt from parts of the legislation is tantamount to unfair competition, and that adding more regulations that members cannot hope to meet will only exacerbate the situation.