Min­ing is urged to set up so­cial grants fund

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - Di­neo Faku

THE BENCH Marks Foun­da­tion, a non-profit faith-based or­gan­i­sa­tion owned by South Africa’s churches, has urged min­ing com­pa­nies to con­sider set­ting up a fund that would give so­cial grants to re­trenched minework­ers.

Bench Marks non-ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor John Capel said yes­ter­day that min­ing com­pa­nies had a so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to their em­ploy­ees as 70 000 jobs had been lost between 2012 and 2016, with mines go­ing bust amid a steep in­crease in in­put costs.

Capel said he wanted to know why dur­ing the good times the min­ing in­dus­try had failed to set up a fund that would help buf­fer the im­pact for bad times.

He said min­ing com­pa­nies should be of­fer­ing some kind of so­cial in­come grant to the peo­ple that were go­ing to be re­trenched.

“They have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do that, it goes beyond a sev­er­ance pay,” said Capel, adding that the mines had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties.

“Af­ter all, they (the mines) took land, re­moved peo­ple from their sub­sis­tence eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, and they also poi­soned wa­ter in many cases. They can­not make a big mess and say we are leav­ing, that kind of at­ti­tude goes back his­tor­i­cally in the in­dus­try. Would they do that in Australia? I doubt that.”

The foun­da­tion’s call comes as the strug­gling in­dus­try con­tin­ues to close mines re­sult­ing in a tsunami of job losses. Last month, An­gloGold Ashanti, the world’s third big­gest gold com­pany, said it would shed 8 500 jobs.

Bokoni Plat­inum, a joint ven­ture between An­glo Plat­inum, the world’s big­gest plat­inum pro­ducer, and At­latsa Re­sources, also gave no­tice of its plan to re­trench 2 651 work­ers, ex­clud­ing con­trac­tors.

Capel said that the re­trench­ments went to the heart of in­dus­try. “For ex­am­ple, many years ago An­glo Amer­i­can came to us telling us how many jobs they are cre­at­ing, and telling us that this was their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. Now they are re­trench­ing em­ploy­ees, clos­ing some mines, and putting other mines in care and main­te­nance,” he said.

A Cham­ber of Mines spokesper­son said in fact mines cer­tainly sought to use the ben­e­fits of good years to sus­tain them through pe­ri­ods such as the in­dus­try has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in re­cent years.

“That is how many have sus­tained them­selves through years of loss mak­ing and poor or zero div­i­dend re­turns to share­hold­ers. But this can­not be sus­tained forever,” he said.

An­gloGold Ashanti said on Tues­day that it had recorded an im­pair­ment of cer­tain of its South African assets amount­ing to $86 mil­lion (R1.14 bil­lion) or 21 cents per share.

The cham­ber also said that between 2014 and 2016, the in­dus­try made an ac­cu­mu­la­tive net loss of around R50bn.

“In­creas­ing cost pres­sures such as the steep in­crease in the price of elec­tric­ity, in­creased labour costs and the in­creased cost of ma­te­ri­als such as steel, com­bined with the con­tin­ued de­cline in pro­duc­tiv­ity for var­i­ous rea­sons, in­clud­ing the in­ap­pro­pri­ate ap­pli­ca­tion of Sec­tion 54 stop­pages have served to un­der­mine the sec­tor,” it said.

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