Storm over SA's "archaic" mining laws.South Africa's mining industry is undergoing the most critical examination in its century-old history. The mining unions want radical legislation to reshape the industry; the mining houses claim this would be a recipe for disaster. The Government is caught in the middle.
South Africa's mining policies have been largely determined in the past by the needs of the six great mining finance houses: Anglo American and De Beers, Genmin, Anglovaal, Goldfields n. 1. A small slender woolly annual (Lasthenia chrysostoma) with very narrow opposite leaves and branches bearing solitary golden-yellow flower heads; it grows from Southwestern Oregon to Baja California and Arizona; - it is often cultivated. , JCI JCI Journal of Clinical Investigation
JCI Johnson Controls, Inc.
JCI Junior Chamber International
JCI Joint Commission International
JCI Japan Concrete Institute
JCI Journal of Communication Inquiry
JCI Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company Limited , and Rand Mines. While these policies have been the source of much of South Africa's wealth, they have also directly created a great deal of the social and economic abuse associated with the apartheid regime.
"The mining industry in this country is the seed-bed of industrialisation Noun 1. industrialisation - the development of industry on an extensive scale
industrial enterprise, industrialization
manufacture, industry - the organized action of making of goods and services for sale; "American industry is making increased use of and is also the fountainhead foun·tain·head
1. A spring that is the source or head of a stream.
2. A chief and copious source; an originator: "the intellectual fountainhead of the black conservatives" of the vices that were refined by the National Party," says Mr Kglama Motlanthe, Secretary General of the Miners Union (NUM NUM (in Britain & S Africa) National Union of Mineworkers
NUM n abbr (BRIT) (= National Union of Mineworkers) → sindicato de mineros
NUM n abbr (Brit) (= ). "Whether you're looking at detention without trial, whether you're looking at single sex hostels and compounds, these are found in the mining industry and were copied by the then Government," he adds.
Mr Motlanthe says the time is now ripe to "overhaul the archaic practices that obtain in the mines and we need Government intervention to do so."
For Mr Nelson Mandela's Government, this has been a thorny issue. The large mining houses, indeed most of the white-owned industrial sector, have been warning the Government that unless union pressure is resisted, the economy could go into a tailspin tail·spin
1. The rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep, spiral spin.
2. Informal A loss of emotional control sometimes resulting in emotional collapse. .
To the unions, particularly the NUM, the time for a comprehensive change of legislation is overdue. The Government has been dropping heavy hints to the mining industry, urging it to reform itself.
This is not good enough for the NUM: "Left to its own designs, the mining industry is incapable of changing. To them a good deal is a deal where they win 100%. They have this uneven contest, if you like, with the workers out there. I don't think they're capable of changing unless they're nudged quite hard by the Government."
So far, the "hard nudge" from Government has come in the form of a commitment to major policy and legislative changes within a tight timetable. While it is unlikely the timetable will be adhered to with the volume of work passing through the South African Parliament, all parties are agreed that change must and will come, as much through discussion and consensus as through legal instruments.
Meanwhile, the NUM can celebrate at least one victory. The Leon Enquiry into Health and Safety, commissioned after three years of intense pressure from the NUM, published a damning indictment in May this year. The report, which ran to 2,600 pages, detailed the unsafe and often inhuman conditions Inhuman Conditions is the second and final demo by by American death metal band Injustice, before their breakup. Various elements present on the demo including acoustic and atmospheric breaks help to establish the demo as "ahead of it's time". in many of South Africa's mines and drew attention to the high levels of inadequately recorded occupational diseases among mineworkers.
Since the Health and Safety law is part of the Minerals Act, changes to this law will also require the developing of a new mining policy Act.
Some in the industry are anxious to prevent a confrontation between the mining houses and labour.
Mr Marcel Golding, MP and Chair of the Mining and Energy Sub Committee explains: "The basic thrust of the Leon Commission report has been accepted and a task team has been established: It is drafting the law, which will be negotiated by the tripartite bodies, the Government, the National Union of Miners and the employers. By early next year, we will have a new health and safety law implemented in the country, and over the next six or seven months we'll debate and finalise this."
The Mining and Energy Policy Centre (MEPC MEPC Marine Environment Protection Committee
MEPC Middle East Policy Council
MEPC Malawi Export Promotion Council
MEPC Military Entrance Processing Command
MEPC Medical Examination Publishing Company
MEPC Most Efficient Cost Producer ), is a key body in advising on a new mining policy. It identifies one of the major issues now as a lack of new ideas "New Ideas" is the debut single by Scottish New Wave/Indie Rock act The Dykeenies. It was first released as a Double A-side with "Will It Happen Tonight?" on July 17, 2006. The band also recorded a video for the track. from the mining giants. Reactive rather than proactive responses are the order of the day, says Dr John Bristow: "Practically every mining executive is saying that the industry has real problems but no one's saying let's put some new ideas on the table. Its trying to work out a problem from the status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. and I don't think we can do that any more."
The MEPC, Chaired by Mr Cyril Ramaphosa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (born 17 November 1952) is a South African lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and businessman. He was born in Soweto, near Johannesburg, in what is now Gauteng province. , Secretary General of the NUM and currently ANC ANC
African National Congress
ANC African National Congress: South African political movement instrumental in bringing an end to apartheid
ANC n abbr (= Secretary General is actively researching new models for the mining industry. It has looked in detail at the Canadian Whitehorse Mining Initiative, a model which operates on consensus between all the involved bodies to produce a "socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and prosperous mining industry". It is perhaps the best practice to be found in the industry, covering environmental questions and community needs as well as industry development. Whether it will be adopted remains to be seen.
Commission of inquiry
The ANC has also proposed a commission of inquiry into South Africa's diamond mining industry, to be announced To be announced (TBA)
A contract for the purchase or sale of an MBS to be delivered at an agreed-upon future date but does not include a specified pool number and number of pools or precise amount to be delivered. later this year. Mr Marcel Golding has outlined the brief of the Inquiry: "I think there's a recognition that the mining industry has to change in its broadest aspects, certainly with respect to the diamond industry. Apart from the beneficiation beneficiation
Treatment of raw material (such as pulverized ore) to improve physical or chemical properties in preparation for further processing. Beneficiation techniques include washing, sizing of particulates, and concentration (which involves the separation of valuable side in the future, on the production side, if one's going to achieve the objectives of greater black participation and develop greater equity in the industry, then some reform is necessary".
The Inquiry will look at the production side of diamonds, foreign exchange earnings for South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. , and equity of participation for black people. The ANC also wants to know how South Africa links into the world diamond market.
At present, De Beers Consolidated mines 93% of South Africa's diamonds in its six land based mines and offshore operations. Its other interests include the South African elements of the CSO (Chief Security Officer) The person in charge of all staff members who are responsible for promulgating, enforcing and administering security policies for all systems within an enterprise or division. and companies manufacturing synthetic diamond Synthetic diamond, also called lab-created, manufactured, "lab-grown" or cultured diamond is a term used to describe diamond (the tetrahedral carbon allotrope) which has been produced by a technological process, as opposed to natural diamond, which is and abrasive products. All other De Beers interests are incorporated in Switzerland as De Beers Centenary.
A key element in these inquiries is the need for transparency within industry, says Mr Golding: "Greater transparency does not apply only to diamonds; there's a whole range of sectors in South Africa that operate in that way - oil is another example. We've got to break the tradition where business is not open."
That the mining industry needs reform is beyond question. Apart from the mining houses' need to improve productivity, there is an urgent need to create jobs and improve the conditions for workers.
Thus far, South African mineworkers have been little more than "human batteries" plugged into the system and disposed off at will. Changing the mining system will go a long way to severing the residual roots of the old discredited apartheid order.
The old system is no longer even productive for the mining houses who benefited so substantially from the cheap labour. High-technology mining needs a skilled workforce and miners now want not only their existing skills formally recognised but also the education and training denied them by the apartheid system.