Cape Times

‘Suspended mine must come clean’

Bokoni urged to treat retrenched workers fairly

- Dineo Faku

THE BENCH Marks Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet to Bokoni Platinum in Limpopo, which is retrenchin­g 2 651 employees, to give details of its plans to mothball shafts as it reiterated its call for mining houses to pay retrenched employees social grants.

Bench Marks, the faithbased non-government­al organisati­on that monitors corporate performanc­e, said on Friday that communitie­s feared that the mine would use this “suspension” as a way of avoiding its requiremen­t to rehabilita­te the land.

It was responding to news that Bokoni had been placed in a two-year period of care and maintenanc­e to regain its financial strength.

Bench Marks executive director, John Capel, said there were many unanswered questions around Bokoni.

“Once a mine’s operation is suspended, what onus is on it to continue operations once the suspension period has passed? How can we be sure that the same workers will be employed? How will infrastruc­ture such as boreholes be maintained in good working order? What about the state of the roads that are

‘The members of three communitie­s and other nearby villages will be deeply affected by Bokoni’s decision.’

used to take children to school, for example?”

Around 20 000 job losses are looming in the mining industry as Bokoni, a joint venture between Atlatsa Resources and Anglo American Platinum, the world’s biggest platinum producer, affect jobs.

AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third biggest gold producer, said it would cut 8 500 jobs, while Sibanye Gold said 7 400 jobs excluding contractor­s were on the line amid the plan to place loss-making shafts on care and maintenanc­e.

Capel also said that mining companies should establish a system of social grants to support the mineworker­s they were retrenchin­g.

He said that responsibi­lity to workers and communitie­s did not end when a mine suspended its operations, and that the onus was on mining companies to ensure sustainabl­e life for affected communitie­s.

“Communitie­s such as Monametse, Sefateng, Mosotse and other nearby villages are going to be deeply affected by Bokoni’s decision,” he said.

“The mine has failed to help people in these villages generate a sustainabl­e income. Most of these villagers’ ploughing fields have been denuded by mining operations and there are still a lot of people living in abject poverty,” he said.

Capel said one of the biggest fears of communitie­s was that the mine would use this “suspension” as a way of avoiding its requiremen­t to rehabilita­te the land.

The Chamber of Mines had previously said companies contribute­d to a range of social benefits for employees, including through their regular unemployme­nt insurance payments and retirement fund contributi­ons.

“Any additional costs that may be required to fund any additional social grants, would have an impact on the sustainabi­lity of all mines. These are issues that are in fact considered in almost every set of wage negotiatio­ns,” it said.

South Africa has 17 million social grant beneficiar­ies who rely on the Social Security Agency.

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