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Making collaboration the catalyst for a better Northern Cape

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The motto of the Northern Cape province is ‘Sa ǁa ǃaĩsi ‘uĩsi’ – which means “we go to a better life” in the San language. Bringing this motto to life hasn’t always been easy in this vast province, which continues to struggle with many of the socioeconomic challenges facing our broader society. 

Like many South Africans, the people of the Northern Cape are affected adversely by violence and crime, the legacy of apartheid discrimination, unemployment and poor access to opportunities, resulting in generational poverty. So, what can be done to help them achieve their dreams and aspirations? How do we ensure we reach those who need it most and bring marginalised people and communities into the mainstream of the economy? These are the questions that we constantly ask ourselves at Kumba Iron Ore, and our parent company, Anglo American.

Mining has long been the largest private-sector employer in the Northern Cape. It’s a major catalyst for economic development in the province and contributes significantly to the fiscus. In 2019, Kumba Iron Ore alone created almost R26-billion in dividends for shareholders, employees and its empowerment partners, and spent close to R13.4-billion procuring from BEE suppliers. Of this, R3.6-billion was with host community businesses and another R264-million on social development projects (education, health, infrastructure, agriculture, SMME and supplier development).

Despite these vast and important achievements, I am ever mindful of the role that we must continue to play to drive inclusive growth. Our vision includes mining communities that benefit from both the rich mineral endowment beneath their feet, as well as new economic activities — such as agribusiness opportunities, biofuels, game ranching and tourism begin to develop, building on mining’s contribution. And to achieve this vision, we must leverage the catalysing power that partnerships offer for sustainable change. 

Today, we’re taking a major step in our journey to achieve this vision, and in the process, we’re aiming to turn the traditional model of socioeconomic development in the Northern Cape on its head. This is why the Thriving Communities pillar of our Sustainable Mining Plan is so important to us.  Our aim of supporting five jobs offsite for every job that currently exists at the mine will help reset the relationship mining has with its communities, by ensuring their sustainability well beyond the life of the mine. 

Together with a group of partners — including the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Exxaro, Zutari, World Vision International, the Mine Water Co-ordinating Body and the IDC — we have launched a significant  programme for sustainable to improve economic development, and the quality of health, wellbeing and general living conditions of host communities across the Northern Cape. 

The initiative, known as The Impact Catalyst, will drive large-scale socioeconomic development initiatives in the province through sustainable public-private partnerships. This is part of our ongoing work to create sustainable development opportunities beyond mining in the communities in which we operate, which we call Collaborative Regional Development. 

The CRD approach starts with identifying the socioeconomic development opportunities with the greatest potential in a region. By using spatial planning and analysis, we can forge partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, including community representatives, faith groups, businesses and entrepreneurs, government, academics and NGOs. These partnerships allow us to deliver on our commitment of building the foundations for the long-term along with sof dustainable development in our host regions, far beyond the lifecycle of the mine.

The Impact Catalyst’s focus includes key areas such as economic development, health, education, social empowerment, the environment and supporting municipal and provincial governments to upskill and improve service delivery. It will see the provision of ICT in schools and communities and the construction of new Early Childhood Development centres. It will create an enabling environment to boost tourism and agriculture in the province, with several agriculture projects already selected for piloting. It will drive economic development by creating SMMEs, new suppliers for our operations, and enterprise development. It will provide much-needed capacity development and infrastructure support to municipalities to enable service delivery in communities. 

Ultimately, the tangible effect will be thriving, empowered and self-sufficient communities. That’s critical: as one of South Africa’s most significant players in the mining industry, we would not exist if it were not for our communities. It is in our communities where we mine the mineral resources that power our economy and drive the growth of the country. Through programmes like The Impact Catalyst, we plan to ensure that the positive effects of our work remain long after our mines have closed, through thriving and sustainable communities.

The major shift is that we aim to empower communities to achieve long-term economic prosperity by changing the role of mining to be the catalyst, rather than the sole economic activity. But we can’t do it alone. It is vital for corporate South Africa and the public sector to forge partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders to engage in large-scale programmes that advance local sustainable development in South Africa. 

By working with partners, we are better able to deliver on our commitment to building thriving communities through long-term, sustainable development that goes far beyond the life of our mines. 

At Anglo American, we have decades of experience in making a real and lasting positive difference to South Africa across numerous fields: black economic empowerment, fighting HIV/Aids, improving health outcomes, making a difference in the education sector. By working with the government, our host communities, non-governmental organisations and faith-based organisations, and by re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives, we can keep growing together. We only grow when South Africa grows.

Themba Mkhwanazi is the CEO of Kumba Iron Ore  

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