Johannesburg, South Africa — 27 May 2013 – The South African government is to announce the formation of a powerful committee which is being formed with the specific objective of calming fears around the country’s volatile mining industry.
Fin24 quotes City Press as reporting that the committee will consist of National Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile; his mineral resources counterpart, Thibedi Ramontja; as well as the chief executives of the platinum and gold sectors’ three biggest players.
There are also plans for deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to sit down with both the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to discuss the sector’s wage talks. Talks have been formally opened in the gold sector, and platinum industry discussions are set to begin soon.
The committee’s formation follows a secretive emergency meeting in Pretoria on Friday afternoon at which finance minister Pravin Gordhan, mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu, officials from the Chamber of Mines and mining company chief executives gathered to discuss the wage talks.
“We spoke for a long time about the effect that signs of instability in the mining industry are having on the exchange rate,” Shabangu said after the meeting.
Last week Gordhan and Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus both publicly identified the mining industry as the leading cause of uncertainty in the economy, and President Jacob Zuma warned that fractious labour relations at the country’s mines could “wreck the economy”.
Gold and platinum comprise 60% of South Africa’s exports, and every strike in these industries instantly affects the country’s trade balance.
The latest flurry of activity comes days before Shabangu is due to deliver her budget-vote speech in parliament, although it was initially scheduled for last Wednesday. Some pundits have suggested she wanted to broker some sort of deal in the mining sector so she could deliver good news
But Motlanthe’s attempts to get AMCU and the NUM around the same table may have taken a knock after Shabangu on Friday used her speech at the NUM’s central executive committee conference to publicly lash AMCU.
Despite being the government minister primarily tasked with defending peace in the mining industry, she unequivocally threw her weight behind the struggling NUM. While hardly using the name AMCU, she railed against those “determined to use every trick in the book permanently to defeat you (NUM) and remove you literally from the face of the earth”.
Shabangu went on to bemoan that “19 years after democracy, we are dealing with trade unions whose actions amount to an attack on the universal principles of the freedom of association, assembly and speech”.
Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.