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MINING COMMUNITIES- BLESSED WITH A CURSE OR CURSED WITH A BLESSING

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Mining communities: Are we blessed with a curse or cursed with a blessing?
AUTHORS: Pelosego Pana Sehako and Fezile Kies.

Beeshoek Mine in Postmasburg has been in existence for 89 years to-date and geological explorations started 150 years ago. The two properties were Assmang operates its Khumani mine currently were surveyed as far back as 1926 by Captain Thomas Shone, he and his partners set up Union Manganese Mines and Minerals Limited. They bought seven properties, including Bruce and King ( Khumani) and obtained mineral leases for others, such as Beeshoek and Bishop.

The last decade has seen the intensification of iron ore and manganese mining and thus a number of large scale operations in our area, some are a stones throw away from communities. We were elated by the developments as these would signal marked improvement in their living standards… so they thought. A new dawn and resuscitated hope in the lives of many a despondent job seeker and emerging entrepreneur.

The joy seemed not totally misplaced as a result of employment opportunities that were so few and far between, with most employment seekers at the verge of giving up on finding employment to feed their immediate as well as extended families, as is the case in most black families .

Businesses that afforded employment was of a menial nature as such did little in the socio-economic upliftment of communities..

Decades later we are seeing little improvements in the living standard of those communities. Skyrocketing unemployment, gangsterism, drug infested dens, alcoholism, with most collector and arterial roads potholed.

The Millennials and Generation Zs of society took themselves by their bootstraps and accessed education opportunities in the fields of engineering, medicine, logistics, accounting and the social sciences to end the poverty trap experienced by the generations before them.

In fact most communities missed out on the benefits of the mining boom in our country, South Africa. The town Tsantsabane, Postmasburg in the Northern Cape were these authors hail is a perfect model in this regard. The unemployment rate of the province at 27 percent which the highest amongst all provinces, and 60 to 70 percent of its youth are unemployment. Statistics are even more appalling for Postmasburg, her children has taken to drugs, alcoholism, gangsterism like a duck to water.

Tsantsabane is experiencing what in economics is called a resource curse, also known as the paradox of plenty, with an abundance of natural resources, but we tend to have less economic growth and worse development outcomes than towns with fewer natural endowments. Its graduates are roaming the streets, business people are scurrying for the crumbs from the Masters table.
The town and its environs are rich in iron ore, the fourth most abundant element on the earth’s crust.

In chemistry one learns that there is a type of energy that is required to be applied on every transition state, it is called the Energy of Activation or Ea, a stimulus. If, in any case, the reactants happen to have energy lower than the stimulus, they will not pass through the transition state to become offspring. This is a time when a catalyst is applied timely to allow a greater proportion of reactants to acquire sufficient energy to pass through the transition state and become offspring.

MINING HOUSES ARE YOU THAT CATALYST?

The following barriers stand in the way to radical socio-economic upliftment of mining communities, though not exhaustive but common as such must be dealt with the urgency it requires.

1. Colonialism of a special type (The Alpha male read as white male/established companies vs emerging)
2. External recruitment companies (recruiting from big cities for small mine towns)
3. The skill (expertise) excuse
4. Gatekeeping

What is to be done? Differently said what are the recommendations?

Mining Charter 3, An anvil or a political beach-head.

The Latin expression – ex nihilo nihil fit – out of nothing, nothing comes. What we drive and the gadgets we use to communicate, none of these comes from nothing. All these come from natural endowments drawn from the belly of the earth, transformed to create utility for the end user.

It naturally follows that the mining industry is a critical player in terms of human provision thus giving effect to the trueness of the expression ‘out of nothing, nothing comes.

The latest Mining charter has been a subject of many constellations among industry players; mainly the State and Chamber of Mines.

Consistent with the resolutions adopted by the ruling party at the 54th National Conference, the charter goes a long way in addressing historical economic injustices perpetuated by the minority against the majority. At last ,the populace saw the document as an empowerment vehicle in creating conditions fertile.

Consistent with our belief that the situation can be turned around, we have developed a few recommendations, which are anchored in what is known “asset community development” – approached in this way extraction leads to capacity and collective action.

We believe that Dialogue is the way to go. Communities can score big if they dialogue – firstly amongst themselves, then with neighbouring towns with similar interests, forge powerful partnerships and pursue common interests.

We should think of our towns as forming part of one iron ore and manganese belt, and not as ten different towns with two hundred unrelated problems.

Capacity must be extended to recently restituted areas; they face severe challenges of malnutrition, disease, hunger and general lack of facilities, the tragedy being that they sit on world-class mineral deposits. Their poverty being exploited by powerful mining interests.

The partnership should aim at empowering communities as a first step. The preceding is particularly essential because – obviously parties do not have equal power, but there should be a recognition that parties could impose significant costs or they can provide valuable assets.

The tools, the wherewithal, the instruments of legislation are there, adequately exploited they can be utilised to turn the lives of our people around.

A few recommendations:

The Mine Transformation and Development agency must be transparent and look at financing models to assist black holders in holding on to the newly acquired shares.

– The State must cooperate with critical financial houses to look at incentivising black shareholders on an annual basis, and this will absorb the impact of weak commodities cycles, share price underperformance etc.

– Abolish the practice of employing recruitment companies in the cities for small mining towns. Provincialism only occurs when grounds are fertile for its development.

– SALGA together with the industry, Provincial and local government must come together and collate the SLPs with the I DPs of Municipalities.

Regulations and Legislations must be strengthened around employment equity targets in the industries and heavy penalties imposed on non-compliance.

– Monitoring and evaluation of this effect must be rigorous and structures set up both nationally and in the host communities to enable this function.

Anglo committed to ambitious sustainability strategy, host communities and labour-sending areas have their eyes trained on the implementation of these, there include:

1. Creating five jobs off-sure for every post on-site in its host communities.

2. Working with government to ensure every school in its host communities performs amongst the top 20% of state schools in the country.

3. Reducing freshwater abstraction by 50% in water-scarce regions.

These and other recommendations must be enforceable by law; there must be a continuous evaluation, the communities must not be seen as mere beneficiaries but as an asset that can contribute to its own well being and that of the mining operation. At the end of life of mine, activities should leave behind a well-resourced community, viable and well endowed.

AUTHORS: Pelosego Pana Sehako and Fezile Kies.