Mining Indaba: South Africa’s Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe invites attendees to put people first

By Elisee Isheloke, Writer, MiningIR

At the start of the 25th Mining Indaba, investors, mining companies and more attended a packed session to hear the Minister of Minerals Resources of South Africa give an impassioned speech to the crowd. After a short introduction, the Minister wasted no time in heading straight to the cornerstone of his speech: “mining is as good as the performance of individual mines… mining companies should put people first”. He stressed the need to help individual companies, including small-scale mining companies, make money, something which they must do for them to thrive.

“Mining is not about the rock, it is about people…”

Minister Mantashe said that when mining companies make profits in the short-term, and wealth in the long-run, they can help to effectively contribute to the economy. He highlighted the importance of this contribution to helping South Africa, which with a current economic growth rate of 2.2% needs more investments.

Investors “must put people first in what they do as mining is not about the rock, but it is about people”, he stated. The critical part mining plays in the South African economy cannot be overemphasised, as it currently contributes around 7% to the GDP of South Africa. Whilst encouraging, the minister pointed out the need to ask for more, and to do more, to develop the economy.

Minister Mantashe also stated that the role of the government is to regulate the mining environment, “We want to give mining a regulatory framework” which will be “friendly to the business of mining”.

In his speech, the minister was open about some of the challenges the mining sector is currently facing, and how the government could help. These include:

  • Job safety – One of the priorities for the African National Congress (ANC).
  • Corruption – The government wants to root out corruption and inculcate the culture of excellence in mining business.
  • Exploration – Help to reduce exploration costs for future mining investors by providing government data on mineral resources nationwide.
  • The Environment – Continue to develop environmental protection in the future whilst at the same time encouraging mining investment.
  • Value Addition – “Value addition is important for South Africa”. The country cannot shy away from its responsibilities in prioritising value addition.
  • Illegal Mining – Minister Mantashe slammed illegal mining which robs the economy millions of Rands: “Illegal mining jeopardises our work and must be stopped”, citing how recently 41 billion Rand was lost to the economy due to illegal mining.

Amongst other themes discussed, the minister spoke about how to deal with mining communities, how to handle the scarce water resource by making sure mining does not pollute it, improving people-to-people engagement in a bid to foster a better treatment of workers and so forth.

Dr Elisee Isheloke, PhD, is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on the Minerals to Metals Initiative in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is writing for MiningIR in a personal capacity.

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