Desperate times as miners have to bail out municipalities
Housing, healthcare and service provision is a job for local governments, not the struggling mining sector
Roger Baxter, CEO of the Minerals Council SA, made an interesting observation during a speech at the industry body’s AGM. It pertained to the continued lack of trust between mining companies and its regulator, the department of mineral resources.
Baxter noted that in the third iteration of the Mining Charter the department had to issue a 15-page document to explain how to implement the charter. He said this showed the evolving complexity and overly legalistic approach by the regulator.
These developments had come with “increasingly vocal admonishments by the regulator about the dire consequences of non-compliance with their provisions”, he said.
Then Baxter raised two points which cut to the heart of the problem that has beset SA’s mining industry since the ANC took power in 1994 – the ongoing “lack of trust by the regulator in the industry”.“Whether justified or otherwise, it is plain to see that threats to a company’s mining rights will push those companies into a legalistic approach to compliance,” he said.The nature of the relationship between the two sides in recent years has been marked by applications lodged in court by individual companies and the minerals council – to lift unjustified safety stoppages, compel the department to comply with regulations, or to oppose aspects of the charter.The council will likely again turn to the court if the department goes ahead with its latest draft document. It outlines increased financial burdens on mining companies to provide worker housing, infrastructure, health and even nutritious food.
The scope and scale of demands in the Housing and Living Conditions Standard for the Minerals Industry document is breathtaking. It is difficult to understand how mining minister Gwede Mantashe, who is fully cognisant of the high level of mining job losses, would put his name to a document that will add millions if not billions of rands to companies’ expenses, exacerbating unemployment.Housing, healthcare and service provision is a job for municipalities. Expecting the mining sector to bail out failed local governments is utterly nonsensical and smacks of desperation.