Mining Consultative Forum to be launched in South Africa

Pretoria- President Jacob Zuma says he will convene a meeting which will look at promoting the rule of law and stability, strengthening labour relations, improving working and living conditions and supporting the growth of the mining industry.

The Mining Sector National Consultative Forum, scheduled for 8 September, will bring together government, business and labour to discuss the implementation of the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry.

The agreement was entered into by government, organised business and organised labour in October 2013 as a collective response to the Marikana tragedy which saw the death of 44 people in August 2012.

“The meeting is being planned during a difficult period for the mining sector economically when many mines in the gold and mine sectors are running at a loss and also the difficulties in the steel sector,” said Presdient Zuma on Sunday.

The President also said he was making good on his undertaking made in the State of the Nation Address to launch a mining version of Operation Phakisa - the integrated delivery system currently being rolled out in the health and oceans economy sectors.

The matter, he said, will further be discussed when the National Consultative Forum on the Mining Sector meets next month.

Meanwhile, the President announced last month that government had committed R18 billion to improve the socio-economic conditions of distressed mining communities across the country.

This project is being coordinated by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities, which was established in 2012.

The IMC coordinates the work of government departments in responding to the Marikana tragedy and is led by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

"Overall R18 billion has been dedicated to ongoing work in distressed mining communities, benefitting the following provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West. The bulk of this funding is from government, with mining companies contributing approximately a third,” said President Zuma.

Several projects have been initiated and are progressing well, he said.

These includes the Department of Human Settlements and its supported by its agencies, who are implementing about 66 public sector housing projects in the 15 prioritised mining towns.

In the 2014/15 financial year more than R419 million was spent on the ring-fenced budget for informal settlement upgrading in prioritised mining towns in Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West provinces.

Over 7000 houses delivered

To date over 7 000 units have been delivered in the mining towns.

“For this financial year about R1 billion has been ring-fenced. This is anticipated to deliver approximately 19 000 housing opportunities in mining towns.”

Two of the housing projects were in Marikana where about 500 houses would be built on land donated by Lonmin.

In addition to the ring-fenced human settlement grant funding for distressed mining towns, the Department of Human Settlements' housing agencies have contributed over R1 billion to integrated human settlements within mining towns.

These will include 17 341 loans of R239 million for incremental housing from the Rural Housing Loan Fund (RHLF); R673 million delivering 3 405 mortgage and social housing units from the National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC); bridging loans of R95.6 million for 1 177 affordable housing units and R36 million for 4 546 subsidy units from Nurcha's Construction Finance and Programme Management.

Industrial projects also in the pipeline

Turning to socio-economic conditions, President Zuma said, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Department Rural Development and Land Reform as well as Small Business Development are facilitating both large and small scale industrial projects in the 15 mining towns.

These, he said, are particularly critical in creating business and employment opportunities.

In addition, the dti is also providing support to selected municipalities and regions in the development and implementation of Regional Industrial Development Plans.

These include interventions in Bojanala and the Greater Tubatse local municipalities for the establishment of a Platinum Group Metals (PGM) Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Feasibility studies, business plans and the appointment of a project management unit have been completed and the SEZ designation and land acquisition is being finalised.

Others include the establishment of an agri-hub in Bojanala, Madibeng and Marikana for agriculture production and a processing facility for communities as well as the Vulindlela Industrial Park Revitalisation initiative in King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, in the Eastern Cape.

These projects, which include a multi-sectoral business park, will promote sustainable manufacturing investments into the region.

Health and safety to be prioritised

On the well-being of the miners, the Department of Health, together with the Departments of Labour and Mineral Resources, are working towards the alignment of the industry's occupational health and safety policy. This in order to ease off compensation and other benefits towards an enhanced social protection system, as well as the positive reorganisation of the compensation system and access to benefits for ex and current mineworkers.

"The Department of Mineral Resources is employing mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels,” President Zuma said.

To date, the department has given additional focus to enforcement and inspections through 40 regional medical inspectors, analysis of annual medical reports from the mines' provision of standards on workplace exposures.

It has also started with the implementing inspection and audit tools for occupational health services, promotion of occupational health in the mining industry and engaging in reviewing research relevant to occupational medicine in the mining industry.

Furthermore, the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Health are employing strategic interventions to promote healthy and safe working conditions.

These, including ensuring the reduction in falls of ground accidents by 20% on an annual basis, actively promoting awareness activities on the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB; preventing personal over-exposure to silica dust; and promoting active linkage of dust exposure to medical surveillance.

The Department of Health has established one stop service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour sending areas.

These one stop service centres have been established in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape as well as Carletonville in Gauteng. More one stop service centres will be established in other provinces, beginning in Kuruman in the Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo.

Government will also establish mobile units in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland during the 2015/16 fiscal year.

"In changing the face of mining, we are also drawing lessons from other countries,” the President said, mentioning support of the Australia-Africa Partnership Facility.

South Africa, he siad was also benchmarking the policy and regulatory system governing the mining sectors in Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Zambia.