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'Nothing came of Lonmin's pledges'

Companies
Johannesburg - While heads of states and business leaders met for the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, Lonmin on Thursday came under the spotlight amid a community protest for jobs at Bapong, next to its Marikana operations, and fresh complaints that the world’s third largest platinum producer was yet to comply with its social and labour plans (SLP).

Mining Forum of South Africa, a non-profit organisation, advocating for the rights of mining communities, said that the protests were related to the poverty that surrounded Lonmin’s Marikana mines.

The forum’s founder Blessings Ramoba said Lonmin continued to disregard the implementation of the SLP, for both housing programmes and local economic development programmes.

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The entrance to the E2 shaft mining area at the Marikana platinum mine, operated by Lonmin. Photo: Bloomberg

Ramoba added that the forum had continuously engaged the management and chief executive Ben Magara of Lonmin over the SLP, to no avail.

“The community continues to live in poverty and no opportunities are provided for community members, yet Lonmin continues to mine in the area,” he said.

“After our own research on Lonmin, we have found that Lonmin is not complying with the laws and regulations and we have presented our facts to the company.”

Lonmin was the scene of the Marikana massacre in August 2012, when police shot dead 34 mineworkers in a wage strike.

The company has also come under heavy criticism from faith-based and non-governmental organisation, who accuse it of failing to meet its SLP obligations.

Last year, President Jacob Zuma threatened to rescind the company’s mining licence if it failed to give clear time frames for its employees’ housing programme.

But Lonmin spokeswoman Wendy Tlou said while the company had met most of its SLP targets in a difficult environment, the fragility of commodity prices hindered the progression of its SLP implementation.

Tlou said the company had already budgeted R500 million to complete the conversion of single-sex hostels into modern apartments by next year.

Read also: Investors lose confidence in Lonmin

She said that the company also donated 50 hectares of serviced land for development by the government, where an estimated 2 658 houses could be built.

“Lonmin admits that progress in some areas has been slow due to economic conditions and the financial constraints facing the business, and we have continuously updated the regulator,” she said.

“As you will know, the entire platinum group metal mining sector has experienced a sustained low-pricing environment for the metals mined. The collapse in prices has placed constraints on funding for social improvements.”

Lonmin’s BEE partner, Bapo Ba Mogale Investment Company, blamed high unemployment in the area for the protests.

The company’s chief executive Lehlohonolo Nthontho said people had protested for jobs in 2015, but Lonmin could not absorb them as it was in the process of restructuring due to the low commodity price environment.

“People want jobs. The area has a very high unemployment rate and people flock there for jobs. Unemployment is a major cause for instability in this community,” Nthontho said.

Tlou added that the company was committed to working with the BEE partner to uplift the youth.

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