The declaration signed by government, mining companies and labour unions put 16 000 potential job losses in the mining sector on ice, said Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Wednesday.
It was the first time in months that the minister attended a parliamentary oversight committee and Zwane was lauded for his willingness to attend. Zwane, who replaced Ngoako Ramatlhodi in September last year, and Acting Director General David Msiza briefed Parliament on the state of job losses in the industry.
The declaration, which has been in place for the past six months, has yielded positive results, said Msiza. “There are, for example, other rehabilitation activities to create alternative jobs for mineworkers who are about to be retrenched.”
Another initiative is to help new and emerging mining companies to buy some of the assets of multinational corporations, which are restructuring and unbundling their assets.
During question time, Democratic Alliance MP James Lorimer told Zwane it is not entirely realistic to expect junior and emerging mining companies to take over the assets of multinationals. “People who want to get involved don’t have the capital to develop that mine. Where will the money that will replace the money multinationals are taking out, come from?”
Lorimer also took issue with the reasons the Department of Mineral Resources gave for job losses in the industry. Msiza attributed job losses by and large to global economic challenges and the slowing down of demand for commodities and lower prices of key minerals.
“You ascribe the decline in jobs and profits in the industry to international conditions,” Lorimer said. “But the massive cost increases in South Africa arise out of poor regulation, electricity supply problems, increased labour cost, black economic empowerment requirements and the fact that we have months of strikes. Who can blame a company like Anglo American for selling their assets (coal and iron ore) in South Africa?”
SA ‘not unkind’ to miners
Zwane responded by saying international companies are not leaving South Africa because the country has been “unkind” to them in terms of legislation and black economic empowerment targets.
“It’s an open secret that Anglo is disinvesting in countries, such as Australia (and) Brazil, but they choose to remain in South Africa. Their CEO (Mark Cutifani) told me they’re selling assets because of financial problems and that South Africa has always been kind to them. He is disinvesting in this country of origin, but they are continuing operations in South Africa because we have been kind to them. Their future lies here.”