Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has urged the mining community to rally behind the industry in order to attract investment into the country.
“Our message as an industry must be coherent and positive,” said Mantashe.
He was speaking at the official opening of Canyon Coal’s Khanye Colliery in Bronkhorstpruit on Friday. The Minister’s comments follow on the recent Investment Conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre.
President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the inaugural conference, which secured nearly R290 billion worth of investment announcements for the country.
The colliery launched on Friday has the potential of contributing positively to employment and is estimated to have extractable reserves of about 39 million tonnes, translating to an operating lifespan of around 15 years.
The Minister encouraged the Canyon Coal group, which has five operations in Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces, to strengthen relations with the communities in which they operate.
This was emphasised by traditional leader Prince George Mahlangu, who called for stable relations between the community and the mine.
“Ours is to ensure that communities are stable,” said Mahlangu, who also acknowledged the group’s investment in Region 7, which faces high unemployment levels.
Growing the economy and educating the public
Mantashe said the industry, which has been plagued by negative growth, can improve the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) numbers. He said there is potential, not just for gold, platinum and manganese mining.
“The biggest contributor for the country is coal… Every mineral is contributing to the performance of the mining industry.”
Mantashe urged stakeholders to protect the sector.
“We must protect the sector. It must grow the economy and provide jobs. Transformation is about changing the architecture of the economy,” he said, while also urging young people to enter the sector and work towards creating wealth.
He said it is only through the optimal use of factors of production that the country can effectively fight unemployment, inequality and poverty, and that mining must contribute to the economy positively.
A former shop steward himself, Mantashe urged shop stewards to protect workers by protecting the interest of workers, who contribute a lot to the sector.
Managing Director of Canyon Coal, Vuslat Bayoglu, said South Africa is sitting on fortune in terms of mining and that the country’s coal mining industry is alive and well.
He said the industry has reserves for the next 118 years.
He said while it took the group two years to obtain mining rights, South Africa is a great jurisdiction in which to invest.
The group also used the opportunity to congratulate the Department of Mineral Resources on the recently gazetted Mining Charter.
Director at Canyon Coal, Rudzani Mudogwa, said the appointment of Mantashe to the mineral resources portfolio has helped to resuscitate and give direction to the sector, which bodes well for investment.
Agreeing with the Minister, Mudogwa said mining should be people centric. He said the group cares about the communities in which it operates.
Meanwhile, Swiss Ambassador Helene Budlinger-Artieda said investment in South Africa is crucial.
“Mining is one of South Africa’s most important economic sectors. In Switzerland, you dig a hole and there will be nothing. In Gauteng, you dig a hole and you’re most likely to be lucky. Mining is a driving force of this economy,” she said.
Canyon Coal, Budlinger-Artieda said, must contribute more than job creation. It must contribute to good practices in areas like health and safety and fair labour practices, while also protecting the environment.
She lauded the group for being the first coal company to undergo the Bettercoal assessment, which works towards a global, responsible coal supply chain.
The initiative was established by a group of major coal buyers to promote the continuous improvement of sustainability performance in their coal supply chain.
The performance of coal mining operations is assessed against the 10 principles of the Bettercoal Code through the Supplier Assessment Process. – SAnews.gov.za