‘A social licence to operate’

South Africa’s mining landscape unfolds against a backdrop of social challenges, leading mining companies such as Kumba Iron Ore to play a role in local development.

Kumba runs a number of social investment initiatives in towns where it operates.

Peace Lindile Ntuli, its community development and engagement manager, said the aim is to run “sustainable socio-economic development projects to contribute to long-term sustainability and viability of communities, and ensure the company [has] a social licence to operate”.

Kumba is a member of the Anglo American mining group and provides iron ore to the global steel industry.

Its head office is in Centurion, Gauteng province, and its annual operating budget stands at R26-billion. Some of its profits are directed into projects that assist communities in the Northern Cape with access to food, healthcare and education.

In Kuruman the Manyeding small-scale food garden project comprises 159 households who live on state-owned land and work collectively.

“It is a sustainable agricultural business in the community, leading to employment, skills development and economic empowerment,” said Ntuli. Locals grow vegetables on five hectares of open-field irrigation.

Kumba initiated a public-private partnership that received funds from the local municipality and agriculture department.

Also in the Northern Cape, the Batho Pele Mobile Health Clinic initiative was launched in July 2011. Its aim is to meet the primary and secondary health care needs of the poorest of the poor in extremely remote communities.

“The primary objective was to uplift the general health of the target communities and bring relief at overcrowded local hospitals,” said Ntuli. “In the first month, 1 948 patients made use of the service and up to June 2014 the units had 18 156 unique beneficiaries.”

The mobile clinic now has nine health units that are transported by off-road vehicles to four sites on a rotation basis, servicing residents of Madibeng, Gasese, Maphinickie and Kagung. A free bus brings patients from nearby villages to the units, which are stationed on each site for a week.

More than R25-million has been invested into the community through this health delivery initiative, said Ntuli.

Early childhood development (ECD) has been another focus for Kumba in the Northern Cape. Ntuli said the mining giant had contributed R37-million to educational infrastructure development by funding the building of ECD centres.

“Having been approached by several local school principals, we liaised with the provincial government to ensure that any intervention by the mine would not overlap with or duplicate the government’s own plans,” he said.

The province gave the mine a list of 60 schools that would benefit from ECD centres. The mine selected nine primary schools of the 42 within the district for development in 2013.

“At each school two classrooms, a sheltered play area and a playground were built to date for Grade R pupils,” he said. “We also equipped the classrooms with the necessary educational equipment and toys. By the end of 2013, approximately 720 children had been enrolled.”

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Yazeed Kamaldien
Yazeed Kamaldien is a journalist, photographer and independent documentary filmmaker.

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