wescoal

Wescoal has made significant strides in transforming and restructuring the company with the clear vision of becoming a dynamic black-owned, black-led and gender diverse coal supplier in South Africa.

The coal company is progressing towards fulfilling this vision by championing transformation within the company and socio-economic development (SED) within the communities that it operates, writes CHANTELLE KOTZE.

Leading the way in transformation

In line with its vision of becoming a majority black-owned and black-led coal company, Wescoal has successfully maintained its majority 50 + 1% black ownership level since 2016. Moreover, Wescoal Mining is currently at a BEE Level 5, Wescoal Trading at BEE Level 4 and the corporate office at a BEE Level 2 compliance.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 12, 2018

HR director Bongani Hlope believes that these statistics are testament to Wescoal’s rapid transformation over the past three years, a trajectory that the company aims to maintain despite dilution from acquisition, which may affect this rating.

Focusing on gender diversity at leadership level

In terms of gender equality within Wescoal, while the company is well above government’s 50% gender demographic threshold requirement, the company aims to go beyond its employment equity obligations and will be focusing on improving gender diversity at leadership level.

“Our female gender representation at board level within Wescoal currently sits at 33%. We are looking to increase this by means of a formal gender and racial diversity policy, which was already implemented this year,” says Hlope.

“At leadership level we were tracking behind in terms of gender diversity but as of October 2018 we have made two senior appointments of black females in the positions of head of finance operations and company secretary – both of whom are also below the age of 40, which is not easily found in the mining industry in the finance space,” he adds.

Moreover, Wescoal is also looking to employ a female legal executive in future, which will also help the company diversify its gender representation at leadership level even further.

Considering the company’s gender diversity within Wescoal Mining, the company’s flagship operating asset, one member of the board is an African female, while the company secretary, which was appointed to the Mining Company’s board in October 2018, is a coloured female.

“Our new head of operations for finance, who is also going to serve on the board of Wescoal Mining, is going to increase the participation of females at board level to more than 30%,” says Hlope.

Within Wescoal corporate office, the company currently employs a female as head of HR and will soon be appointing a female sustainable development manager, which will add another female to the corporate office. Wescoal is targeting a 50% ratio of senior female employees within its corporate office.

Meanwhile, at operational level, Wescoal has one female geologist and will increase the amount of mine planners and surveyors in 2019, with a focus on employing females into these roles as far as possible.

“By in-sourcing more of its core activities going forward, such as the minerals processing operation, Wescoal will have the opportunity to improve its gender diversity in this space,” says Hlope.

“Strategically we are reviewing how we will manage some of these core value chain activities – but focused recruitment will be towards increasing our female and Indian diversity at operational level,” he adds.

Creating a sustainable community through socio-economic development

With sustainable development at the core of Wescoal’s business, the coal company is leveraging its core coal mining and trading business to create socio-economic opportunities for the communities around its various mining areas, during its operating lifespans but also beyond this when mining activity ceases.

According to Wescoal human resources director Bongani Hlophe, the coal company is looking at a more innovative socio-economic empowerment model which considers two empowerment routes, namely:

  • Creating an entrepreneur that is able to run a sustainable business
  • Creating a skilled individual that can be deployed both within Wescoal and the outside market.

“The reality that we as Wescoal face is an uneducated host community that requires basic skills development, which needs to first be addressed before we are able to undertake sophisticated SMME incubation skills development,” says Hlope, adding that Wescoal focuses on getting the basics right before looking at turning it into something sustainable.

Corporate social investment programmes

In doing so, Wescoal actively pursues opportunities to develop local SMMEs with the right skills to enable them to provide services to the mining operations.

Examples of such initiatives entails the total outsourcing of the laundry services at the Elandspruit mine, contracting of coal transportation services to a local-female owned enterprise, as well as a sewing/textile project aimed at the supply of PPE, school uniforms and linen to Wescoal, its contractors, the community and surrounding businesses.

Wescoal supports these SMMEs till breakeven, and to the point that while still able to leverage off of Wescoal, they ultimately work as independent service providers within the local community.

Projects that transcend both skill development and local economic development includes the upgrade of the D20 road and Wescoal’s ongoing housing development project. In this process local people are trained with the necessary skills to become local contractors able to work both for Wescoal and within the larger community.

Moreover, the task of rehabilitation at Wescoal’s operations is a project that transcends both sustainable development and enterprise development. Once an in-house activity, rehabilitation is now being outsourced to the community.

“Our main aim is to build businesses that transcend our coal mines,” says Hlope, who adds that these enterprises and upskilled individuals should ultimately be able to function in a new economy that is not reliant on mining as the core economic driver.

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