Pretoria - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has noted with concern that the mining industry has not transformed as quickly or sufficiently as it could.
"We do need to expedite the transformation of our industry... Transformation cannot be limited to changing the nature of ownership, but must enhance the contribution of the industry to development, the creation of decent work opportunities and sustainable growth," Motlanthe said.
Motlanthe further said that government had no immediate plans to nationalise the mines. "Whilst this healthy debate continues, the sector should take comfort in knowing that there are no immediate plans from the state to nationalise the mines.
"Public discourse should be separated from public policy. The latter is an outcome of extensive multi-sectoral consultation within government."
The deputy president was speaking at the Chamber of Mines of South Africa Annual General Meeting on Monday.
He said the Department of Mining is finalising its assessment of the progress that has been made in achieving the objectives of the Mining Charter, as agreed upon by industry stakeholders when the Charter came into effect in 2004
Motlanthe said a particular concern around transformation is to ensure the mining industry contributes to diversification and growth of the economy.
"To enhance the value of exports, localise imports and create sustainable jobs, government has developed a beneficiation strategy which seeks to encourage the mining industry to facilitate downstream minerals beneficiation," he said.
The deputy president further vowed that transformation was necessary to facilitate economic diversification, expedite progress towards a knowledge-based economy.
He maintained that transformation will achieve incremental Growth Domestic Product growth in mineral value addition and create opportunities for enterprise development and skills development.
Motlanthe also urged the mining industry to take health and safety serious in an effort to minimise the number of fatalities in South African mines.
"As always, a particular challenge remains improving health and safety. We need to curb the fatalities and injuries that have characterised our mining industry for more than hundred years.
"I am confident that over time more investment in the relevant technologies coupled with training and appropriate monitoring will minimise accidents and thereby prevent loss of human life as far as possible," the deputy president said.
He added together with government, the sector must take the issues of HIV and AIDS as well as TB into consideration as they remain chronic problems for the industry.
"We must also recognise the emergence of HIV and AIDS and the persistence of TB and other communicable diseases as a particular problem for the mining industry.
"We see the Chamber as an important partner in the fight against this scourge," he said, adding that addressing these challenges will help the mining industry to deal with the accusation that it prioritises profits over the health and safety of the workers.