African Mining Brief had an interview with VusiMabena, Chamber of Mines’ Senior Executive: Transformation and Stakeholder Relations regarding the current situation in the mines.
The Chamber of Mines members are committed to Transformation; they are making every effort to meet Mining Charter obligations and have gone beyond compliance where possible.
The current situation
Companies have just submitted their 2012 reports in March 2013 to the DMR and the copies of which have been sent to the Chamber of Mines. We are currently consolidating these reports to determine to what extent the companies have met their obligations. The Chamber is encouraged by the number of companies who are sharing the information and we are very optimistic that the consolidation will show much progress on various elements of the charter compared to 2010
Are your members doing enough?
Progress has been made towards achieving transformation objectives, for instance the number of women employed at different job levels has increased and the number of black managers has also increased, and one can say that 2014 target will be met in terms of women representation. Another area of note is the Skills Development expenditure as a percentage of payroll. As at 2011, the mining industry had spent about R4 billion (US$397million) on human resources development.
Procurement expenditure on BEE companies increased although we are not yet able to state the figures since we are still consolidating the information.
Are reports by the companies a true reflection of the progress made so far?
Accredited Independent verification agents are used by the companies to compile their charter compliance reports and this ensures that information provided is correct. The DMR will soon be verifying this information through an independent verification agent. For this reason it would not make sense for any company to submit information that will be proved to be incorrect. In line with ethical value of honesty to which most companies subscribe, it becomes difficult to provide information that is fabricated.
Barriers to Transformation
Many companies have developed strategies to deal with barriers to Transformation and the charter is the tool that has been designed to deal with any possible barriers to transformation. The challenge is that people do not become managers, engineers and skilled technicians overnight. As companies implement development programmes, the throughput rates are not as high as people would expect.
The area where the industry could still improve is enterprise development. The challenge is the identification of people with potential entrepreneurial skills and then assist them to be able to supply appropriate goods and services unique to the mining sector.
Companies take it upon themselves to make sure that they meet their transformation objectives and monitoring in this case becomes a matter of checking common understanding to ensure that there is agreement during evaluation time at the end of the period.
Role of education in transformation
Education is a means towards achieving transformation objectives and if people do not have the necessary basic education it will take much longer to develop the skills required by the sector. The mining industry has made progress in improving the basic education levels of those employees who have no formal education.
In the past ten years the functional illiteracy levels has declined from about 65percent to 50percent. These workers now stand a chance to be skilled for higher level jobs. More artisans and technicians can be trained quicker if they have acquired the necessary foundational knowledge.Enterprise development can only happen quicker if those aspiring entrepreneurs have the necessary basic education.
What should we do as a nation?
Government is already allocating a bigger portion of the national budget to education. Beyond this the private sector is paying about R10 billion (US$ 992.8million) per annum towards skills development to the Skills Education Training Authorities (SETAs) via the skills levy. These efforts demonstrate political will and private sector commitment towards a skilled nation. What is needed is the inculcation of a culture of learning at all levels of society with a common vision and mission of a functionally literate, numerate and skilled nation. Once we make progress in basic education, I am confident that there will be significant acceleration of skills development.
There are a number of leading practices at different companies that one is able to single out in specific company on transformation. One can mention the Kumba Iron Ore Employee Share Option Scheme that has been widely publicized and there are other similar schemes with other mining companies. The industry is embarking on a Presidential housing project around the mining towns and mining companies can boast of successful housing projects despite the influx of people around mines in search of jobs. The mining industry also boasts of successfully running social and labour plans projects in partnership with some local municipalities to improve service delivery for communities. Most of these are infrastructure development projects that provide electricity, roads, water and sanitation for communities.
Transformation can only be successful if there is strong collaboration between the stakeholders who include business, labour, local communities, national and local government.There is a need to work closely together and support each other in order to achieve pre-determined common objectives.