Statement by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Gwede Mantashe, on his immediate plans and priorities
Ladies and gentlemen of the media
Following my appointment by the President of the Republic to the Mineral Resources portfolio on the 26th of February 2018, I have had an opportunity to familiarise myself with the key challenges facing the department and the mining industry. Against this background, there are key aspects we need to address with urgency and speed. This will enable the industry to operate optimally, and make a meaningful contribution to the growth and development of our economy.
Policy and legislation
Uppermost in our minds is that we should ensure that there is policy certainty. In this regard, we need to see finality with regards to the Mining Charter and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, with the aim of improving investor confidence.
The Mining Charter concerns transformation. Transformation means the ownership, control, management and meaningful participation by the black majority in the industry. Such transformation can occur in a growing and competitive mining industry. Our emphasis on transformation is on a mining industry that benefits producers � big and small, workers, communities and the economy of the country.
Consequently, in our view, transformation and competitiveness are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, the long-term objective must be captured in the vision for the industry.
To ensure progress on the Charter, this past weekend we met with representatives of organised business, organised labour and members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources. This marked the start of ongoing and frank dialogue between us and the relevant role players, regarding the finalisation of the Mining Charter; and other important issues pertaining to the growth competitiveness of the industry.
The meeting, which was robust and open, recognised that there was a lack of consultation between the Ministry and the partners in the past. This had contributed to a trust deficit among us all. The meeting dealt with disagreements on the Mining Charter 3. It considered areas of convergence and divergence regarding the Charter. It also recognised that other affected actors, who were not present at these deliberations, would need to be included as we proceed.
We concluded that two task teams should be established. One will focus on transformation and the Mining Charter, and the other will engage on issues of growth and competitiveness issues. These teams will report back in three weeks.
The Ministry has committed the DMR to engage in an open and transparent way to re-establish trust among the social partners.
We, therefore, agreed to revive a forum akin to the Mining Industry Growth Development and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT). MIGDETT had been created when the industry was confronted with massive challenges on the back of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Through collaborative efforts, the partners significantly minimised the negative impacts of that crisis. This revived structure will enable us, as social partners, to meet regularly and proactively deal with issues confronting the sector, instead of waiting for a crisis to bring us together.
The Ministry is currently developing a planned programme for consultation with communities on the Charter. It is my wish that the final Charter is finalised and gazetted during the first half of this year.
The MPRD Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament. We are considering appropriate ways of ensuring urgent progress at that level.
On other matters
We are actively involved in resolving the challenges at Tegeta’s four mining operations – Koornfontein, Shiva, Brakfontein and Optimum. We have met with the business rescue practitioners, mine management and workers at Optimum mine. The business rescue practitioners have indicated that these are still good assets, which can be viably mined by another operator.
We have also appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to provide it with the progress report on this matter. We have also indicated our openness to cooperate with Parliament, through its Committee, on any others hereto. This is important to ensure Parliament’s oversight of our work and our accountability to it.
Our aim is to find solutions that will keep the operations open and protect jobs. We want to see a thriving industry that creates jobs and ascertain investment. Ultimately, the mining industry � as a key component of our economy, must contribute to economic growth while meeting its commitment to the social and labour plans.
Furthermore, we are paying attention to matters of health and safety in the mining industry. Last year the sector recorded an increase in fatalities, for the first time since 2007.
In 2017, 88 fatalities were recorded, compared to 73 in 2016. Since the beginning of the year, we have already had 15 fatalities. This requires urgent intervention. However, the application and use of Section 54 must be an absolute last resort, and one that should not be used as a tool to manipulate companies.
The report into the accident which occurred at Lily mine has been completed, following the inquiry which took place. We have received the report and the Department is considering action we must take.
Aware that most senior management is in an acting capacity, we have prioritised to fill vacant positions in the Department. It is important to adequately resource the department to carry out its mandate and be responsive to the needs and expectations of all it services.
There is a great potential in the department, also the ability to overcome past and present challenges. We will, therefore, delve into all allegations of corruption and manipulation of processes levelled at the Department. Serious action will be taken against those who are found guilty. Related to this, is the critical importance of a licensing system and process that is fair, transparent and efficient.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is work in progress as I continue to get to grips with issues in the department and industry.
I will provide an update on these and other matters when I deliver my Budget Vote speech in Parliament in due course.
I thank you for your time, and hope to have more regular interactions with you on pertinent issues affecting the mining industry.
Source: Government of South Africa