JOHANNESBURG - German chemical giant BASF yesterday denied that its relationship with Lonmin had changed despite reports that it had threatened to walk away from the miner amid unresolved community and environment issues.
The company said, in fact, it was working intensively with Lonmin and supported the world’s third-biggest platinum producer in finding long-term solutions to its problems.
“We are exerting our influence to ensure that the company complies with its legal obligations within the framework of social and labor plans as well as with the UN Global Compact principles it has committed to,” BASF said.
“We are working together with Lonmin on the operational as well as the management level, and we have conducted reviews of the working conditions.” Mining website Miningmx on Wednesday quoted German publication WirtschaftsWoche on claims that BASF had threatened to terminate its relationship with Lonmin if the business failed to tackle community and environmental problems at its Marikana mine near Rustenburg.
BASF which has conducted audits on Lonmin, said thus far, the company had seen a willingness on the part of Lonmin to improve the situation with regards to all of the identified deficiencies.
“We note that the development of living conditions for Lonmin workers is not progressing as quickly as one would expect or hope. This is due to the fact that the situation in South Africa is extremely multi-faced and cannot be solved in the short term by one institution alone. Improvements for the local community can only be achieved when all the involved parties work together," it said.
In 2006, BASF took over catalysts business of Engelhard and also Engelhard's supplier relationships in the precious metals sector. Lonmin has been supplying Engelhard, now BASF for more than 30 years, and sources metals from all Lonmin mines, not just Marikana.
The company has been under fire from its host community the Bapo Ba Mogale Traditional Authority for not meeting its socio-economic obligations. Lonmin spokesperson Wendy Tlou dismissed the allegation and confirmed that a firm supply agreement with BASF remained in place.
"Lonmin uses a process of continuous improvement to drive sustainability performance".
The company has previously said that its social and labour plan was still in implementation phase and would until December 2018. Lonmin was the scene of the Marikana massacre in which 34 mineworkers shot down by the police during an illegal strike for higher wages in mid-August 2012, while 10 others including security guards and policemen were killed days before the massacre.
The community penned a letter to President Jacob Zuma last month to call for Lonmin’s operations to be suspended amid allegations that it had not met its commitments to social and labour plan including creating jobs for youths developing skills and providing housing for employees. Lonmin is preparing to hand over health and road infrastructure projects to the community next Tuesday.
However, the relationship with the community had turned sour, said Lehlohonolo Ntotho, the chief executive at Bapo Ba Mogale Investment Company yesterday.
"Lonmin wants to bully us as if we are a subsidiary. They use us for compliance, once they comply do not care," he said.
- BUSINESS REPORT