To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
31 Jan 2014 00:00
South Africa’s mining sector, employing upward of half a million people and indirectly sustaining millions more, faces significant challenges.
The recent news of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) strike at three platinum mines, just the latest in waves of action and challenges to sustainability, underlines the need for a new path for the sector, says Wayne Jansen, KPMG’s global head of mining.
There are also the issues of decreasing productivity and the continued devaluation of the rand to consider, he says.
But with labour issues top of mind in the sector, the strikes are “a clear indicator that there is a need for improved dialogue in the industry,” says Jansen.
“A successful mining industry in South Africa is in the interest of all stakeholders that are directly and indirectly linked to it. Yet, the industry finds itself in a difficult time, with a future that has perhaps never before been so uncertain.
Charting a new path for the sector will not simply happen on its own,” continues Jansen.
“It requires a collaborative effort amongst all stakeholders, bound together by a common purpose.”
Africa was not well positioned to benefit fully from the last economic super cycle, which began in the 1990s, ended in 2008.
However the beginnings of economic recovery in the developed nations spells the potential start of the next super cycle of growth, says Jansen.
“As a continent, we are now better placed to take advantage of the renewed growth in the global economy but we must overcome some major stumbling blocks, particularly in the mining industry. Now is the time to ensure that the building blocks are in place.”
These building blocks include components of the national infrastructure development plan, part of the ambitious national development plan (NDP) for South Africa.
This far-reaching infrastructure development plan, incorporating 18 planned strategic integration projects (SIPs) co-ordinated and facilitated by the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission (PICC) aims to put in place supporting infrastructure to position South Africa for competitiveness and growth.
Minister of economic development Ebrahim Patel has said that the plan is “aimed at reversing the spatial, social and economic distortions of the colonial and apartheid era.
As well as improving living standards, it aims to create economic opportunities in underdeveloped areas through improved roads, rail, ports and broadband, as well as water and energy infrastructure.
In his department’s annual report for 2012/2013, the minister said: “In the financial year ending March 2013, the estimated (unaudited) spending on infrastructure across the state was more than R200-billion.
“If current trends continue, the administration is expected to have spent about R1-trillion by the end of its term of office in 2014, doubling the achievement of the previous administration and 2.3 times higher than spending in real terms at any five year period in more than 40 years.
“Construction of infrastructure under the plan monitored by the PICC sustained about 180 000 direct jobs in the past financial year. Eighteen strategic integrated projects have been developed which integrate more than 150 individual infrastructure projects clusters into a coherent package.
"The SIPs cover social and economic infrastructure across all nine provinces, with an emphasis on poorer regions. They include catalytic projects that can fast-track development and growth. Work is being aligned with key cross-cutting areas, especially human settlement planning, skills development and local procurement.”
With three of the SIPs directly impacting the mining sector, stakeholders are cautiously optimistic that the plan, together with a will to collaborate more closely across the sector, will position South Africa to benefit from the next super cycle. However, prioritisation, integration, effective management and realistic funding models will be crucial, they note.
The department of mineral resources’ director-general, Dr Thibedi Ramontja, said in presenting the department’s annual report to the Portfolio Committee of Mineral Resources in October 2013: “The mining industry is facing unprecedented challenges since the dawn of the democratic dispensation.
“These include a protracted tough global economic environment, as well as industrial relations challenges. Notwithstanding the challenges faced by the industry, as a result of the global financial crisis and domestic constraints, the industry still remains the mainstay of the South African economy. “It continues to contribute significantly towards the economic development of the country.”
He said that the transformation of the industry through the introduction of a progressive legislative framework, more particularly the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mine Health and Safety Act, had resulted in the industry experiencing significant growth and and improved health and safety environment.
Ramontja identified the following milestones:
• Mining’s contribution to GDP grew from R196.5-billion in 2009 to R262.7-billion in 2012
• This represents a percentage basis increased from 9% to 9.3%
• Employment in the sector increased from 492 219 jobs in 2009 to 524 632 in 2012
• The sector’s contribution to the country’s export earnings basket increased from R176.8-billion in 2009 to R269.1-billion in 2012
• The fixed capital formation in mining grew from R64.1-billion in 2009 to R74.7-billion in 2012.
The department had been facilitating the implementation of about 100 social and labour plan projects a year between 2009 and 2012.
On mine health and safety, there had been a reduction in fatalities from 172 in 2008 to 112 during 2012. Ramontja largely attributed this to “the intensified enforcement measures” by the department.
The number of mines increased from 993 in 2004 (when the MPRDA was implemented) to 1 515 in 2009, and about 1 579 in 2012.
The platinum group metals sector remained the largest employer, contributing 38% to the total mining industry’s labour force, followed by the gold and coal sectors at 28% and 15% respectively.
Ramontja said: “We are confident about the future of mining globally, and in South Africa specifically.
“The global economic growth outlook presents a significant upward potential, with the USA and the European economies emerging out of the crisis, while the new engines of global economic growth, i.e. developing countries, are expected to experience economic growth.
“Given the inherent cyclical nature of the industry, we anticipate that a better economic environment is imminent. These signals provide us with a positive outlook for the South African mining industry, especially in respect of the platinum sector which has been experiencing depressed prices. The anticipated improvements will contribute towards the acceleration of inclusive growth of the industry, and job creation, consistent with the objectives of the national development plan.”
This article forms part of a supplement paid for by KPMG. Contents and photographs were sourced through and signed off by KPMG
Create Account | Lost Your Password?