Gwede Mantashe
JOHANNESBURG – Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has invited the public to comment on the Draft Reviewed Housing and Living Conditions Standards for the Minerals Industry 2019, aimed at addressing historical injustices in the industry.

The document, which was gazetted last week, requires mining companies to provide decent housing, including private ownership, healthcare services, balanced nutrition and water to more than 400000 mine employees.

It also aims to strengthen enforcement measures to progressively eradicate the injustices to which mine employees were subjected, and is in line with section 100(1)(a) of the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act.

Mantashe said in order for an existing mining right holder to comply with the housing and living conditions, it must submit a detailed Housing and Living Conditions plan within six months from the date of publication of the document.

The plan should, among others, detail how companies planned to maintain single and family units in line with the standards approved by the Minister of Human Settlement.

They are also required to submit a detailed plan to finalise single and family units and a three-year detailed plan to phase out living-out allowances where verifiable decent accommodation cannot be proven and verified.

New mining right holders are expected to consult with organised labour, the relevant municipality and the Department of Human Settlements and enter into a housing and living conditions agreement within a period of 12 months from the date of publication of the standard.

“The government realises that the location of the housing and living conditions standard as an element of the Mining Charter is untenable and deprives this aspect of the mining industry of its prominence,” said Mantashe.

The 2018 Mining Charter includes the maintenance of the single occupancy units and family units, and any other agreement reached with employees in the time period pending the completion.

Mining companies were required to convert or upgrade hostels into family units, attain one person per room and also facilitate home ownership options for all mine employees in consultation with organised labour by the end of 2014.

Mining houses have made strides in providing homes, but more needs to be done.

“The location of the mining operations, which in most cases tends to be far from existing settlements, has necessitated the employers to make provision for housing as an undertaking to be part of the infrastructure required to develop a mine,” said Mantashe.

The privacy and dignity of mine employees has historically been compromised since the late 19th century, at the beginning of the modern mining industry, which was characterised by barracks of single sex hostels, the cornerstone of the segregation policy.

“The appalling living conditions under which black mine employees were made to live in before the advent of democracy led to a myriad of social ills, including the destruction of the social fabric of community, substance abuse, as well as the contribution and spread of diseases, particularly tuberculosis and HIV/Aids,” Mantashe said.