South Africa has allocated R18-billion for distressed mining communities across the country. Headed by the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) in charge of revitalising mining communities, projects being undertaken include housing and wellness.
“Overall R18-billion has been dedicated to ongoing work in distressed mining communities, benefitting the following provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West,” President Jacob Zuma said on 30 June.
“The bulk of this funding is from [the] government, with mining companies contributing approximately a third of the funding.”
Zuma appointed the IMC shortly after the Marikana tragedy, in which over 44 people lost their lives during labour unrest at the Lonmin mine in North West in 2012. Its mandate is to oversee the implementation of integrated and sustainable human settlements, improve living and working conditions of mine workers and determine the development path of mining towns and the historic labour-sending areas.
“The fundamental mandate of the IMC is to change the face of mining in South Africa working with business, labour and other sectors.”
South Africa had undertaken a socio-economic diagnostic study of the 15 prioritised mining towns and 12 prioritised labour-sending areas to get a better understanding of the extent of the challenges in each town and to determine the most appropriate actions to address these.
“In changing the face of mining, we are also drawing lessons from other countries,” Zuma said. He spoke about the Australia-Africa Partnership Facility, saying the country was benchmarking the policy and regulatory system governing the mining sectors in Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Zambia.
Regarding housing, the Department of Human Settlements was implementing about 66 public sector housing projects in the 15 prioritised mining towns. In the 2014/15, financial year more than R419-million was spent from the ring-fenced budget for upgrading informal settlements in prioritised mining towns in Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West.
“Overall over 7 000 units have been delivered in the mining towns.” For this financial year about R1-billion had been ring-fenced, which would deliver about 19 000 new houses.
Two of the housing projects were in Marikana, where about 500 houses would be built on land donated by Lonmin.
In addition to the ring-fenced human settlement grant funding, the department’s housing agencies have contributed over R1-billion to integrated human settlements in mining towns. This includes 17 341 loans of R239-million for incremental housing from the Rural Housing Loan Fund; R673-million delivering 3 405 mortgage and social housing units from the National Housing Finance Corporation; bridging loans of R95.6-million for 1 177 affordable houses and R36-million for 4 546 subsidy units from Nurcha’s Construction Finance and Programme Management.
Zuma said the government embraced partnerships.
“We understand that when working together, we can achieve much more that leads to a greater impact than when working in isolation,” he said, adding that stakeholders in business, labour and the government had actively supported and participated in formulating the government’s strategic approach for accommodating mineworkers in decent housing and living conditions in mining towns.
Turning to socio-economic conditions, Zuma said that, led by the Department of Trade and Industry, the departments of Co-operative Governance, Traditional Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform and Small Business Development were facilitating large and small scale industrial projects in the 15 mining towns.
These were critical in creating business and employment opportunities. In addition, Trade and Industry is helping selected municipalities and regions to develop and implement regional industrial development plans.
These include interventions in Bojanala and the Greater Tubatse local municipalities for the establishment of a platinum group metals special economic zone (SEZ).
Feasibility studies, business plans and the appointment of a project management unit have been completed and the SEZ designation and land acquisition is being finalised.
Others include the establishment of an agri-hub in Bojanala, Madibeng and Marikana for agriculture production and a processing facility, as well as the Vulindlela Industrial Park Revitalisation in King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, in Eastern Cape.
These projects, which include a multi-sectoral business park, will promote sustainable manufacturing investments into the region.
On the wellbeing of the miners, the Department of Health, together with the departments of Labour and Mineral Resources, is working towards the alignment of the industry’s occupational health and safety policy.
The goal is to build an enhanced social protection system, as well as reorganise the compensation system and access to benefits for former and current mineworkers.
“The Department of Mineral Resources is employing mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels,” Zuma said.
Enforcement and inspections have been beefed up through 40 regional medical inspectors, analysis of annual medical reports from the mines’ provision of standards on workplace exposures, implementing inspection and audit tools for occupational health services, promotion of occupational health in the mining industry, and reviewing research relevant to occupational medicine in the mining industry.
Furthermore, the departments of Mineral Resources and of Health are employing strategic interventions to promote healthy and safe working conditions. These include ensuring the reduction in falls of ground accidents by 20% annually; actively promoting awareness of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB; preventing personal over-exposure to silica dust; and promoting active linkage of dust exposure to medical surveillance.
The Department of Health has established one-stop service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour-sending areas.
There are centres in Mthatha in Eastern Cape as well as Carletonville in Gauteng. More one-stop service centres will be established in other provinces, beginning in Kuruman in Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo.
The state will also set up mobile units in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland during the 2015/16 fiscal year.
Zuma said he was making good on his promise in his State of the Nation Address to launch a mining version of Operation Phakisa, the integrated delivery system in the health and oceans economy sectors.
It would be discussed when the National Consultative Forum on the Mining Sector met later this year.
“To date, the Presidency has engaged in more than 15 consultative meetings with the [chief executives] of mining companies, representatives of civil society and national office bearers of labour unions and there is overwhelming support for the Phakisa process.”
His government was determined, working together with other stakeholders, to steer the mining industry towards increased investment, growth and transformation while being mindful of the social, environmental and health impacts on people in mining towns and labour-sending areas.
“The migrant labour system has been the backbone of the mining industry in South Africa and continues to have an enduring impact on both mining towns and rural labour-sending areas,” he said, urging all stakeholders and communities to work with the government to try to revitalise the mining sector.