People have gathered at the gates leading to the mine and are praying for the trapped miners’ safety. Photo : Supplied

Cape Town – The Lily Mine collapse that has left three mine workers trapped under the ground since Friday has largely gone unnoticed at the ongoing Mining Indaba, where claims have been made that objectives of mining industry have evolved.

In a wide-ranging interview with ANA on Wednesday, Jonathan Moore, the vice president and managing director of Mining Indaba LLC, the owners of Mining Indaba, said the industry was no longer focussing only on profits, but also playing a positive social-responsibility role around the communities in which mines operate.

Moore said the realities of the world have made investors interested in things and issues they previously ignored, and topics that were usually neglected were slowly making an appearance on the Indaba agenda.

“We have seen certain issues continue to take prominent positions in everything we talk about here over the years. Issues like sustainable development, social licences and corporate responsibility, policy, labour, community environment and others that go deeper than just mining were not talked about some five years ago,” Moore said.

Moore, who has been involved with the mining Indaba since 1997 in its 22 years of existence, said at its core, the Indaba talks about mining investment-related topics and offers networking opportunities.

Moore acknowledged just like many other speakers that this year’s Indaba takes place during a “historically challenging time for the markets” as commodity prices have plummeted.

“There are some real challenges current prices of commodities, the level of supply and demand, the regime change of legislation and policy.”

But despite these challenges, Moore said “the long-term opportunity for resource sector in the African continent remains strong”.

Asked why the Lily Mine collapse attracted little attention at the gathering if investors were really concerned about the lives of workers, Moore said the Mining Indaba continues to pray for the safe return of the three miners trapped in Barberton.

“Concern for these members of our mining community has been expressed by many speakers, including Minister Zwane in his official welcome. While the work of the Mining Indaba id ongoing, our thoughts will remain with the trapped miners until they are safely reunited with their families,” Moore said.

But one labour and mining analyst who was at Indaba disagreed with Moore.

Mamokgethi Molopyane – founder of an advisory firm in Africa mining and labour matters, Creative Voodoo Consulting – said she is of the view that because the conveners of the Indaba are focused globally, they do not factor in the role labour/workers play in the value chain of mining industry.

“Evidence of that is the lack of dedicated panel/sessions/workshop that are labour-orientated. For as long as workers are not seen as partners in the talks about investing in Africa, particularly South Africa, progress on addressing their issues will never be made,” Molopyane said.