In these difficult days of COVID-19 it seems a bit of renewed pragmatism is creeping into mining as it negotiates its way through the crisis.
From June 1 deep level mines will be able to ramp up to full production after a lengthy lockdown due that has cost the country between 8 to 10 % in production. There is a lot at stake. More than 400,000 pay packets rely upon unearthing mineral wealth in South Africa that creates 8.1% of the country’s GDP.
For years it has been daggers drawn between government and mine owners in disputes over mining regulations that the latter fear are driving away investors from starting new mines. As I write a court case launched by the mine owners and calling for a judicial review of the Mining Charter – the voluntary document that promote black ownership in the industry. In the past mine owners have seen the document as cumbersome and expensive to comply with.
Roger Baxter, the CEO of the Minerals Council of South Africa – that represents most of South Africa’s major mines said in a CNBC Africa virtual online discussion on mining that negotiations with mining minister Gwede Mantashe, in these difficult days, had been frank and fruitful.
“The mining minister calls me Frank Baxter and I call him Candid Mantashe – that give you an idea of how serious and open these discussions are because we all want to improve the mining over the long term and get the economy growing again. If we can get back to between three and five per cent growth it could turn everything around,” says Baxter.
The CNBC Africa discussion also saw pragmatic words from mining veteran Bridgette Motsepe, an ambassador with the Pan African Parliament, who had worked with Chinese miners in Africa.
“When they come with a project they come with a plan and get things done,” says Motsepe.
All agreed on the panel that the government had done a lot of work to help contain COIVD-19 in the mines. Deshnee Naidoo, the former Vedanta CEO, said tens of thousands of tests had been done in the mines since the pandemic and work was well advanced to set up a tracing system to contain outbreaks.
Mantashe was answering questions in Parliament on COVID-19 during the online discussion and couldn’t take part.