Mining is a powerful engine for socio-economic growth with the ability to uplift the poverty stricken communities in which it operates by creating job opportunities and general human development. As a result of this potential, non-profit corruption fighters CORRUPTION WATCH focuses heavily on social and labour plans (SLPs) to alleviate what it considers corruption between mining companies, government authorities and community leaders. Compiled by SASCHA SOLOMONS.

Corruption Watch project researcher Amanda Shivamba explains that the introduction of SLPs into the regulatory framework of mining operations was intended as a corrective measure to address the disparity in the distribution of wealth amongst mineworkers and communities on the one hand, and mining management on the other. The lack of proper monitoring of SLPs by government means that mining companies are not held accountable for their inaction or failure to invest in mining communities.

“The inescapable reality of the mining sector in South Africa, is the deep disparity between mine workers and communities on the one hand, and mining management, financiers and shareholders on the other. SLPs are some of the corrective measures introduced into the regulatory framework to address this issue,” she stresses.

Shivamba asserts that applicants of mining rights are required by Law 97 to give the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) an SLP which benefits the livelihoods of mine workers and communities. These plans, once approved, are meant to be seen as binding documents and are intended to be aligned with a municipality’s integrated development plan (IDP).

“In order to do so, sometimes companies have to consult with the chief, who is an authority with unregulated powers. This creates an environment susceptible to corruption as the chief can agree to a SLP as long as his personal needs are met. As a result, there is a lack of adequate consultation to ensure that SLPs align with community needs,” she notes.

Lonmin cares

Lonmin recently handed over two SLP projects to beneficiaries within the greater Lonmin community, being communities situated close to the company’s operations. “These activities will alleviate poverty and unemployment and also provide health in a peaceful environment that is based on trust and respect for each other. So improving and developing our communities is at the heart of how Lonmin does its job and it requires real co-operation and collaboration with a purpose to deliver for our people,” notes Lonmin CEO Ben Magara.

The company’s community health projects included the donation of 17 ambulances and a patient transporter (formerly converted panel vans) and two school health mobiles to the provincial Department of Health.

“This move was prompted by our concern that emergency medical services are not always readily available in the greater Lonmin communities,” explains the EVP of stakeholder engagement and regulatory affairs, Thandeka Ncube.

With this in mind, four of the vehicles will be permanently stationed at the Bapong Community Health Centre, while the remainder will be available to service the entire Bojanala Municipality. Lonmin invested R10 million in this project, which included hiring and training eight Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff per vehicle, all of whom were recruited from the local community.

The ambulances supplement vehicles already donated by Lonmin to the Department of Health, including obstetric ambulances, a health promotion vehicle, and two school health mobiles.

Lonmin’s road infrastructure projects saw the business investing in the construction of two roads in the Madibeng Municipality as part of its on-going SLP commitments.

R8.8 million was spent in the construction and upgrade of a 1.004 km stretch of the Skoonplaas Road. Prior to the upgrade, there existed a gravel road that was neither designed nor constructed in line with provincial or municipal engineering standards, making for costly ongoing maintenance.

The upgrade – which created 40 jobs for unemployed members of the Bapo community over the nine-month period of the project – will improve access to the public amenities and bus routes used by employees of Lonmin, their beneficiaries and other community members. The second road infrastructure project focused on the upgrade of a 0.718 km stretch of the Modderfontein Road and provided employment for 38 individuals. Lonmin committed R5.8 million, with construction materials manufactured from the Bapong youth brick-making facility project. Since 2014, Lonmin has spent just over R201 million on the greater Lonmin communities in Bapong, Segwaelane, Wonderkop, Sonop, Majakaneng and Nkaneng for SLP project commitments.

“To collaborate and implement change in a partnership is always constructive because every team has responsibility to fulfil certain duties in order to bring about success,” notes Magara.