Johannesburg - One platinum mining giant felt the wrath of the government over planned retrenchments, while another got a pat on the back for investing in the future of its surrounding communities.
Rustenburg-based mining giants Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) were on Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu’s lips so much that she often confused the two companies on Thursday.
Speaking at the opening of a new school built in an R86 million partnership between Implats, the government and local government, Shabangu lamented the lack of commitment to social responsibility and licence obligations by some mining companies.
Shabangu, whose expression veered from joy to anger depending on which company she was speaking about, congratulated Implats, saying it was one of the few businesses that adhered to its social labour plans.
She said businesses like Implats were investing in the future of communities.
Mining companies are required to state their social labour plans on what they will do to give back to the communities in their neighbourhood, as well as their workers, before being granted a licence.
When she turned to Amplats, Shabangu lambasted the company for its recent and widely criticised announcement of a plan to retrench 14 000 workers, shut down four of its shafts and sell another in the Rustenburg area.
“The future is not about retrenchments. It’s about giving our people skills so that they can have mobility… and think of how they can prepare the unskilled, so that when they downscale, those workers can go on with their lives,” she said.
“We need companies that understand their licence obligations and (work towards creating) sustainable communities. (By building a school) Implats is creating a future for its neighbours.”
Shabangu said she had been informed that not more than 25 percent of South Africa’s mining potential had been mined, saying the country could still have many more years of mining.
She urged the mining companies to concentrate on building the future of their communities and not to “push workers into a bleak future” through retrenchments.
Shabangu, who was due to meet Amplats officials later on Thursday said the company had to give compelling reasons for the retrenchments.
She added that Amplats was supposed to present its plan for retrenchments not as a decision, but as something it was only considering based on certain reasons so that other routes could be explored in a bid to avoid job losses.
“We also need to understand why they have decided to shut down mines. The ANC said that instead of shutting down, companies should release those mines to those with money to operate them so that jobs can be sustained,” she said.
Shabangu said her department would this year embark on a review of mining companies’ social labour plans so that they could get them to adhere to their obligations.
Implats has so far spent R58m on building Sunrise View Primary School, while the remainder of the R86m was being used to complete a secondary school in the area as part of its R1 billion employee home-ownership assistance programme.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga also expressed gratitude at Implats’s gesture, saying the new school was a huge relief to Paardekraal Primary School, which had been the only school in the area.
She said that while the new school had already enrolled more than 800 pupils, Paardekraal remained overcrowded with more than 1 800.