Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) says South Africa’s mining industry must address the “ills” of the past. “If we don’t, South Africa will burn.”
Mathunjwa was debating the topic of modernising the country’s mining industry at the 2015 Joburg Indaba with Impala Platinum’s CEO Terence Goodlace and mining authority Bernard Swanepoel.
“The problem is that no one wants to dirty their hands to change our problems,” Mathunjwa stated, adding that it is time to ‘pay back the workers’ who have struggled and put everything into their jobs over the decades.
“Companies must transform and realise their workers are human beings. Investment into the sector is not [but should be] made to correct the ills of the past and include skills development – if we don’t change this South Africa will burn."
Goodlace agreed with the AMCU president, acknowledging the importance of mining employees. “We need a shared vision and a realism to do with is right for the people and the country. Implats is building houses for our people and bringing them close to the operations – this is critical to the whole modernisation equation.”
It’s a slow process however. Goodlace says his company has built and delivered 2 500 houses for its people but still need another 2 000.
“Getting cash to keep going nowadays is becoming extremely difficult. With low productivity and low prices, this makes it extremely difficult. We have to work together to solve our productivity issues to have cash left over to invest in these business aspects.”
Mathunjwa was not complementary of government’s role in modernising the mining industry either – “The government’s current system for attracting foreign investment is not working. The status quo cannot remain the same. We need to invest in our people as well as the equipment.”
The solution to every problem/difficulty is collaboration Goodlace continued. “We need to create an industry that will attract investment and find a way to bring people, processes and technology together to be more productive, to be safer and to maintain a happy workforce.”