IN A speech acknowledging the historical damage done by the mining industry to South African society, Chamber of Mines vice-president and Sibanye Gold CEO Neal Froneman outlined a plan to forge a new relationship to build a sustainable environment for mining.
“We need to critically and honestly acknowledge the role of our industry where it acted against the interests of the vast majority of South Africans if we wish to secure full reconciliation with our broader society,” Froneman said on the eve of the two-day Joburg Indaba, a mining conference in its third year.
“We have a past that continues to taint our present. And until we secure full and complete reconciliation between business and society, we will not be able to move forward in constructive relationships with common purpose,” said the head of SA’s largest producer of domestic gold.
The conference, due to start on Wednesday, has drawn speakers like former finance minister Trevor Manuel, ANC head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana and a host of mining company CEOs, fund managers and lawyers.
The conference, organised by former Harmony Gold CEO Bernard Swanepoel, has carved a niche for honest and open discussion. The transformation of the industry is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for all players involved in the sector to address.
“Unclear policy, inefficient regulation, labour militancy and community protests continue to be seen by various stakeholders as essential levers to force business to transform and transfer value into the broader society. This is a destructive legacy that needs to be unwound through faith and bold leadership,” said Froneman.
“The modernised mining industry vision will only be realised when all stakeholders are aligned and contribute towards the industry’s success instead of trying to further their own selfinterests. A modernised mining industry will result in all stakeholders benefiting from the creation of superior value,” he said.
Part of the transformation of the industry would be the agreement of a social and economic compact between labour, government and the industry, he said.
Business would commit to being open and transparent with information as well as inclusive. It would set itself the highest standards of environmental and social performance and governance, while developing local economies and communities.
“It is my view that unions should focus on promoting their members’ interests in the context of the economic sustainability of mining operations. We understand the important historical role of unions in promoting a political agenda, but the unions of the future should see their role as serving their members’ interests first,” Froneman said.
Employees would have a greater part of their wages linked to profit sharing “so that they benefit alongside shareholders and management from positive upticks in the economic cycles but also contribute to the industry’s survival through economic downturns”.
The government would have to establish a clear policy, fair taxes and a regulatory framework to give the industry long-absent certainty to encourage investment. “Fair and efficient administrative processes will be in place, and adhered to, as enshrined in legislation without impeding business operations,” Froneman said.
At a dinner on the eve of the conference, a Hall of Fame was launched and included some of the key names in corporate mining, unions as well as the regulatory side. The nine people were Sipho Nkosi, Brian Gilbertson, Mark Bristow, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka, Patrice Motsepe, May Hermanus, Barry Davidson, Bobby Godsell and Gwede Mantashe.
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