I am pleased to join you at this important gathering as you celebrate 131 years of existence as the Minerals Council South Africa. Official mining in South Africa is 135 years, just four years older than the Minerals Council.
Over these years, mining has made an immense contribution in the economy of the country. We have seen this manifesting in the development of Johannesburg among other mining towns. To date, Johannesburg’s diversified economy is not relying on mining for growth.
However, this economic contribution happened on the back of a country that was characterised by uneven relations between black and white. These uneven relations also played out in the mining sector where there were systematic and all-round deprivation of basic human rights and economic participation of black South Africans, such that the fruits of their labour and resources could not accrue to them. They were denied basic human rights such as their right to health and safety, decent living conditions, decent wages, and many others.
When South Africa ushered in its democratic dispensation in 1994, millions of her people joined in a joyful celebration as this would mark the end of a painful history. This is the time or the moment when all South Africans could define themselves as equals.
As the country settled down to reconstruct and develop an ideal South Africa, we could not avoid critical questions such as; how do we bring this equality to a tangible reality? This tangible reality had very much to do with, among others, addressing the basic human rights of the people of South Africa, in particular the mineworkers.
For us in the mining sector, this was an unavoidable topic as we had to urgently address the inhumane living and working conditions which mineworkers had been subjected to for the longest of time. Resultantly, there was a great shift in the regulatory regime across economic sectors, more so in the mining sector. This saw the introduction of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002, and the Mining Charter of 2004. These regulatory instruments were premised on achieving the dream of transformation that would set the country on a path to inclusive growth and development. Government’s expectation was that this would be embraced both in letter and spirit. It is regrettable that the sector has not fully embraced these instruments as it continues to drag us to the courts on the transformation subject, signaling resistance to transformation. Government remains relentless to the noble cause of transformation in the economy.
Despite these elements of resistance on transformation, our regulatory instruments have delivered signicant improvements on the health and safety of mineworkers, living conditions as it relates to the conversion of hostels into family units and single quarters. In doing so, we indeed have restored the dignity of mineworkers.
The review of the Mining Charter in 2018, has made even bigger strides as it formally ushered in the 10% free-carried shareholding of communities and workers. This recognizes the fact that workers convert investments into wealth and that communities also benefit as they are the owners of mineral wealth which is held in custody by the state on behalf of the people.
One of the greatest injustices that we have managed to address through this transformation agenda, is the recognition of women in the sector. It is not a secret that women were previously not allowed to work in the mines. To date, we have skilled women in the coalface as geologists, and engineers. We also have women Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at the helm of big mining companies.
MINING CONTRIBUTION TO THE ECONOMY
I also deem it fit to reflect on the status of mining over the years of its existence in South Africa. The 1970s saw the contribution of the mining sector to the GDP soaring and peaking at 21% in the 1980s. The peak was mainly characterized by Gold production.
Today, the sector contributes 8.2% to the GDP. This decline in the sector’s contribution to the GDP over the years, is largely as a result of a decline in Gold production.
It is our collective responsibility to revive the sector and place it on a growth path, where it can contribute a much higher percentage to the GDP. We believe the sector can contribute 12% or more to the GDP in the near future. We can only achieve this if we continue to work together as social partners in the industry.
If we are to revive this sector, we need to commit to the following interventions:
We welcome the Minerals Council SA’s ongoing participation in the development of the exploration strategy for the country.
Work is underway to ensure that we develop a new mining licensing system that will provide reliable information on precise locations of exploration and mining rights.
IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES
The implementation of the Mining Charter, in particular the Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) has a potential to create diversified economies in communities where mining takes place.
INVESTMENT INTO RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
As we look to exploit more commodities that South Africa hosts, we need to invest in research and development in order to be able to utilize new innovative ways of exploring and exploiting the minerals needed by the economy of the future.
INVESTMENT INTO ARTISANAL AND SMALL-SCALE MINING
As we are developing a policy on this sector, we invite the Minerals Council SA to partner with us as this policy would ensure optimal exploitation of our mineral resources where resources that are too small for large mining cooperations can be economically exploited by the artisanal miners.
IMPORTANCE OF A STABLE AND SECURE ENERGY SUPPLY
The revival of and growth of the mining sector cannot be possible without a stable and secure energy supply. It is for this reason that we have made it our preoccupation to drive a robust energy security programme. You would have noted in our budget vote last week that we announced a series of interventions that are underway to ensure that we achieve this goal.
We are pleased with Gold Fields leading the sector with their announcement of a 40 megawatts self-generation project. We invite more of the industry players to follow suite by investing in self and co-generation to support the revival and growth of the sector.
The importance of an organized mining sector cannot be underplayed for it is when we are better organized that we can take this industry to greater heights. The manifestation of this became evident when the country went into lockdown in March last year. We moved with speed and partnered with all social partners in the development of sector specific guidelines for the management and implementation of a phased in approach as we sought to save lives whilst protecting livelihoods. The outcome of our interventions is very much evident in the recovery of the sector in March 2021, where we recorded a year-on-year growth of 21.3%.
We will continue working with you and the incoming leadership that will be elected in our endeavors to grow this sector. We wish you well in your deliberations and look forward to the outcomes of your AGM that will enrich our collective work going forward.
I thank you.