South Africa’s economic development is rooted in mining and the industry plays a pivotal role in creating transformation where it is most needed. Mining-related investment in infrastructure and community facilities has the ability to bring immediate, direct and significant improvement to the day-to-day quality of living of the more than 500 000 people employed in the mining industry.
One of the objectives of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) is to promote social and economic development in the mining industry.
According to Wessel Badenhorst, director and mine health and safety expert at Werksmans Attorneys, “This implies that the Minister not only has a duty to administer the mineral dispensation, but also to ensure that a broad based socio-economic empowerment charter is developed”.
This charter is required to outline how historically disadvantaged South Africans will be able to participate in the mining industry, so that the country’s mineral wealth no longer benefits only a select few.
“The Mining Charter is not merely a document containing the goals to be achieved by the mining industry; in many circles the charter is accepted as law and non-compliance with its provisions is considered a breach of the MPRDA,” says Badenhorst.
The MPRDA states that if mining right holders breach the Act or any condition of its economic empowerment guidelines, the Minister may revoke their rights after due process has been followed.
It is clear that government wants to see transformation and social upliftment in the mining industry and any mining company who discounts the charter does so at its peril.
The two most prominent social aims of the charter are mine community development and the improved housing and living conditions of mine workers.
It is no surprise that these two aims were specifically included in the charter. As a labour intensive industry, mines impact greatly on the communities in which they operate; mines are often situated in remote areas with under-developed infrastructures, and offer the only source of employment and opportunity for participation in the formal economy in the area.
The charter requires mining companies to declare the community projects that they will undertake and warns that these financial investments must be proportional to the size of the mining investment.
In referencing the rights of human dignity and the privacy of mineworkers, the charter aims to enhance productivity and to expedite transformation in the industry. Specific improvements required by 2014 include the:
- conversion / upgrade of hostels to family units;
- achievement of an occupancy rate of one person per room; and
- facilitation of home ownership options for mine workers.