JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The 128-year-old Chamber of Mines of South Africa provided an important indicator of its intended new direction when it revealed that the Zambezi Protocol would be its guiding light as it embarked on its identity and name-change programme.
Under unanimously elected new president Mxolisi Mgojo, the chamber is accelerating its move towards radical reform and taking steps to make good on the devastating havoc that apartheid wreaked on the industry. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).
This follows outgoing president Mike Teke revealing the chamber’s new direction and re-elected vice president Neal Froneman revealing that the Zambezi Protocol – a mining blueprint formulated by Africans for Africans – has already been incorporated in detail into the chamber’s strategy.
“It’s a strategy that is very positive. It’s about really redefining this industry in a way that continues to ensure that mining again becomes a bedrock contributor to the economy. We see that as our real mandate,” Mgojo told a media conference in which Mining Weekly Online took part.
“As the new president has outlined, we have a good strategy, and it is what the chamber is going to continue to build off,” Froneman reiterated.
The change to the chamber’s name and identity is designed to establish a new beginning.
“The outputs will become visible as we go forward. It’s not appropriate to give you the specifics now,” Froneman said, adding that much work was taking place behind the scenes.
“From the chamber’s side, some of the ideas of this ongoing process will emerge over time. We can’t say too much at this stage, but it gives you the flavour of many of the different issues we’ve been looking at,” chamber CEO Roger Baxter said in response to Mining Weekly Online.
Teke set the scene at this year’s Mining Indaba in Cape Town in February when he chided the industry for not fully acknowledging mining’s foundation-stone role in South Africa’s apartheid history.
“One just needs to understand that history is history,” said Baxter. “We weren’t necessarily the people that were there at the time that the history was created but the facts have happened and we’ve got to be able to engage them properly as the industry, which is what we’ve been doing.”
Mgojo has been able to hit the ground running in righting some of the wrongs of the past.
Already entirely phased out is single-gender hostels and considerable work has been done in the fields of gender equity, housing, skills development and the payment of pensions to former mineworkers.
“Those are all part of a process of acknowledging that injustices took place in the past and that the industry is contributing to a positive future as the industry, which is part of the process around the chamber’s own brand health and about how we represent the industry,” Baxter added.
Re-elected vice president Andile Sangqu said transformation should not be about target chasing but rather about creating an end-state vision of what a transformed mining industry should look like.
“We should have an end game in mind so that we’re all working collectively towards something that’s clear, well-articulated and taking us towards a defined destination.
“It’s really a conversation that we’ll obviously need to have with all of the affected stakeholders to drive that sense of mission and journey,” Sangqu added.
SHIFT TO WIN-WIN CYCLE
The Zambezi Protocol – developed under the auspices of the Brenthurst Foundation – lays down that solving the current crisis in the African mining sector requires moving from the current series of tactical actions to a more cohesive, inclusive and strategic approach.
It guides that the intent must be to exit the current backward-looking, destructive, downward spiral in which mining is currently locked and shift to a positive, constructive cycle that offers a stakeholder win-win.
It highlights that the losers of mining’s current dilemma are not only current workers and future workers, but also governments, populations and mining companies.
The difficult issues that have underwritten mining’s current impasse will need to be addressed, as the Zambezi Protocol states, and unjust historical legacies need to be put right.
As the industry heads in a new direction, it will also have to answer questions on the amount of profit that is reasonable, its responsibility to employees and how it can help communities.
Also in the protocol’s outline is that agreement be reached on what a successful mining industry looks like, without neglecting to recognise that mining is inherently risky and long-term.
OUTSPOKEN OFFICE BEARERS
All four of the chamber’s office bearers – including third vice president Steve Phiri who was returning from Platinum Week in London when last week’s annual general meeting took place – are outspoken, which adds, in Baxter’s words, to “the gravitas to the office-bearer suite”.
The new chamber will be going all out to increase membership beyond the current 75 entities so that the workload can be shared.
Chamber membership is normally associated with large mining companies, but it also has member associations involving many smaller entities.
Among these are the aggregate and sand producers association, Aspasa, which has more than 600 quarries in its fold that are both large and small, as is the case with the South African Clay Brick Association, another chamber member.
In addition, smaller emerging miners have taken up membership through the chamber’s emerging miners’ desk, headed by senior executive: public affairs and transformation Tebello Chabana.
A team of retired CEOs and former presidents, including Dr Con Fauconnier, mentor the emerging mining companies and help them to become fully fledged operators.
“So, we’ve been doing our bit to broaden our base,” Baxter pointed out.
In the conversations that Mining Weekly Online has had with Mgojo, he has expressed an interest in involving near-mining communities to become involved agriculturally in the vast tracts of land that surround mines and to benefit from the abundance of water at their disposal.
It may thus mean that the exit of the old chamber name is to be accompanied by the entry of a more holistic natural resources identity looking beyond energy minerals in the form of coal, coal gas and uranium only for new membership.
Mgojo heads the 6 000-employee, R40-billion, black-controlled Exxaro Resources that already has a renewable energy generating business.
Gas is another energy source that chamber mining members have turned a blind eye to in the past.
Chamber members wore blinkers when they drilled through gas resources in their search for gold in the Free State.
Now the State-owned Industrial Development Corporation is helping to remedy that omission by providing R218-million in loan finance to support the further development of a natural gas resource in the Free State, through the creation of a 107-km pipeline network and associated gas processing facilities.
“It’s certainly not a view from the chamber side that we’ve lost any effectiveness. In fact, I think the chamber is more united and more capable and more able to engage government,” Baxter told journalists.
For long, the chamber engaged the government through direct conversation but going forward it could well do so also through the courts.
“You will see from the last two years that we’re not shy to engage government in court processes because courts are there as part of a constitutional democracy, to protect our rights and to enforce our rights; and government has the same route.
“When you deal with organisations like the National Mining Association of the United States, if they have got four or five litigation issues at any one time, the courts are there to play a particular purpose.
“It is part of a legitimate process within a constitutional democracy to make sure that you get outcomes that are in the national interest,” he added.
Because of mining’s many economic linkages, the new mantle that it dons will be crucial in determining the extent to which it benefits the South African economy.