Progress made on mines pact, says Zuma

MEASURES started two years ago to improve conditions in mining and stabilise it are taking root, the government and industry members said on Tuesday.

A forum was set up after the Marikana killings and numerous wildcat strikes in 2012 and on Tuesday it met again to discuss the projects aimed at addressing the socioeconomic issues that contribute to unrest around mines.

President Jacob Zuma said he would now hold meetings between the government, mining firms and trade unions twice a year to discuss the measures.

The government and industry have made progress on issues such as illegal mining, improving informal settlements in mining areas and creating economic zones to boost growth, he said.

“Collective responsibility” needed to be taken to address continuing issues, including job cuts, Mr Zuma said.

Last week another pact on saving some of the up to 19,000 jobs at risk and on making the industry more sustainable was signed by the same parties.

On Tuesday, the forum said progress had been made in the following areas: crime combating forums handled 4,059 incidents, with 761 arrests, and 92 successful prosecutions; stakeholder forums are dealing with illegal mining in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Free State and will soon operate in the Northern Cape; and 5,000 housing units were built as part of a revitalisation of distressed mining towns in the Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West.

Two one-stop service centres to assist former mine workers with compensation, Unemployment Insurance Fund and pension fund payments had been established and more planned.

In addition to tackling violence and improving living conditions, mining companies agreed to tackle employee debt and help improve conditions in areas where their workers originally came from.

“Stakeholders have also agreed on the need to expand economic opportunities in the labour-sending areas, and to fast-track economic development and economic diversification projects in mining towns and labour-sending areas,” Mr Zuma said.

National Union of Mineworkers president Piet Matosa said the union’s position that there should be no job cuts remained unchanged. However, it supported the “mitigation” efforts.

Chamber of Mines president Mike Teke said the parties had recognised progress in terms of legacy issues, such as tuberculosis, but “the first issue remains collaborating to put in place measures that make retrenchments a last resort”. The chamber said avoiding retrenchments through cutbacks in capital expenditure was not conducive to its longer-term prospects.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has not yet signed the agreement but its president, Joseph Mathunjwa, said it would still participate in the talks.

Solidarity welcomed a concession by the chamber allowing small unions to participate in wage negotiations, while the United Association of SA said the interventions had given it confidence the sector may be stabilised in the longer term.

With Bloomberg

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