Bro­ken prom­ises

CityPress - - Business - LE­SETJA MALOPE le­setja.malope@city­press.co.za Kopanang The Savuka sec­tion of the is set to oe close an a stu y is go­ing to oe one to in­te­grate parts of the TauTona mine with the Mpo­neng mine which opene in 1981, will oe place on care an main­te­nance

Never and never again shall we al­low our mine to be stopped... These are the first words of a pledge in­scribed on a bill­board perched at the main en­trance to An­gloGold Ashanti’s Kopanang mine near Orkney in North West. The pledge goes on to men­tion safety as­sur­ances. When the com­pany, which is the third-big­gest gold pro­ducer in the world, an­nounced that it would be shut­ting down its 4 000-worker-strong Kopanang mine in the Mat­losana mu­nic­i­pal­ity, fear swept through the few com­mu­ni­ties that de­pend heav­ily on the mine. When one pays a visit to the mine, the irony of the pledge kicks in.

To some, it brought mem­o­ries of a re­cent night­mar­ish re­trench­ment saga in one of the neigh­bour­ing for­mer min­ing com­mu­ni­ties where Aurora mine – owned by a Zuma and a Man­dela, among oth­ers – dumped 5 000 peo­ple into ab­ject poverty.

Many of Aurora’s work­ers are still at its for­mer premises, with no elec­tric­ity and run­ning wa­ter. Many more, ac­cord­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, are still il­le­gally min­ing some of the shafts. Pros­ti­tu­tion has also found a place in that lo­cal econ­omy.

Kopanang, mean­ing “get to­gether”, is a 2.3km deep gold mine that opened its doors in 1981 and has since had nu­mer­ous own­ers. The mine was ini­tially owned by An­glo Amer­i­can and had changed own­ers sev­eral times un­til An­gloGold got its hands on it.

Ac­cord­ing to coun­cil­lor Khaya Nd­incede of ward 21, the ward that is clos­est and will be most af­fected by the job cuts, the clo­sure will drive the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion deeper into poverty.

The area al­ready has an es­ti­mated un­em­ploy­ment rate of more than 30%.

Vaal Reef ward 21, Umuz­imuhle, is en­tirely owned by the min­ing com­pany – 1 300 house­holds, the schools, the roads in­fras­truc­ture, recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties such as the parks, the clin­ics and even the taxi rank, the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices and shop­ping com­plex that houses sev­eral busi­nesses, in­clud­ing a post office, all be­long to the mine but are be­ing rented out.

The com­pany is the sole land­lord in the com­mu­nity. The mine is even in charge of the wa­ter and elec­tric­ity in the area and work­ers pay a fixed amount di­rectly to the mine via de­duc­tions from their salaries.

“An­gloGold is the land­lord here, they re­gard it as farm­land,” Nd­incede said, adding that the mines in the area, par­tic­u­larly An­gloGold, have op­er­ated as a par­al­lel gov­ern­ment on its own as they do not have many le­gal obli­ga­tions to­wards the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity and in­stead 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 100 80 60 40 20 0 com­mu­ni­cates only with the de­part­ment of min­eral re­sources.

Nd­incede also pointed out that, ac­cord­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal de­mar­ca­tion, Kopanang mine is ac­tu­ally not in North West as the Vaal River is con­sid­ered the pro­vin­cial bor­der and the mine is only a few me­tres from the river on the Free State side.

He said the mine’s so­cial labour plan, which has been ap­proved by the de­part­ment, did not re­spond to the needs of the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

For ex­am­ple, the com­pany re­cently built swim­ming pools for com­mu­ni­ties whose in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment plans pri­ori­tised other press­ing ameni­ties.

An­gloGold’s board is chaired by Sipho Pityana, a vo­cal anti-Zuma ac­tivist who was one of the lead­ers of the Save SA march ear­lier this year.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has in re­cent years earned a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing one of the worst-run in the prov­ince and had been put un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore. It is one of sev­eral still ow­ing Eskom mil­lions of rands.

It owed R250 mil­lion, but the fig­ure has now been low­ered to around R90 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The shut­ting down of Kopanang mine – which is one of only three mines the mu­nic­i­pal­ity claims it dis­cusses so­cial labour plan projects with – might just eco­nom­i­cally paral­yse the area again. The other two mines are Tau Lekoa and the Gupta-owned Shiva Ura­nium.

Ac­cord­ing to Mthuthuzeli Danxa, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment man­ager, the prob­lems that ac­com­pany a mine shut­ting down are many and it would have far-reach­ing con­se­quences for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, Roger Mkhu­mise, told City Press that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had re­quested a meet­ing with the com­pany in or­der to get a clearer pic­ture.

“Na­tional gov­ern­ment has come up with ini­tia­tives. We have been iden­ti­fied as one of the dis­tressed min­ing towns by the pres­i­dency,” he said.

An­other ma­jor issue was the that the big­gest em­ployer in the area was still the min­ing sec­tor, but pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment had al­ready put a plan in place. In 1995, it con­trib­uted 42% to the econ­omy in the area. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity did not pro­vide lat­est fig­ures. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has only around 7 827 hectares of va­cant land re­main­ing. The big­gest as­set on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s books is the 23 000-seater Op­pen­heimer Sta­dium in Orkney, which was do­nated by a mine, but has now be­come a main­te­nance bur­den.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­cent budget speech, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has a budget of R2.9 bil­lion for the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, with its ex­penses to­talling R3.2 bil­lion.

Mkhu­mise said it only gen­er­ated rev­enue through the col­lec­tion of rates from Klerks­dorp, the nearby town­ship of Jou­ber­ton and through mar­ket de­vel­op­ment.

It has an in­di­gent reg­is­ter of al­most 20 000 peo­ple, a fig­ure that is ex­pected to in­crease dras­ti­cally when Kopanang shuts down.

As part of its so­cial and labour plans, An­gloGold Ashanti in­tends to in­cor­po­rate the mine vil­lage in­fras­truc­ture into the host mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Mat­losana and Mer­a­fong, re­spec­tively, the com­pany said.

The Na­tional Union of Minework­ers, which is the ma­jor­ity union at Kopanang, held its stew­ards’ coun­cil in Car­letonville this week, where it re­solved to

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