The mining industry is mostly agreed that there are many things that need to change if it is ever to return to its former glory. Government needs to move faster on finalising the regulatory environment, and political governance has to improve.
At the same time, mining companies acknowledge that they have to do much better in so far as improving the benefits that accrue to mineworkers and the communities of mining-affected areas. These issues were not in question at the Junior Indaba event held recently.
But, with every mining conference I attend, I see what seems like an industry going in circles. The Joburg Indaba, while known for being a straight-talking event where speakers hold no punches in voicing their opinions on what needs to be done to advance the sector, does not seem more effective at advancing the industry than any other of South Africa’s many talk shops where good ideas are voiced but seldom acted upon.
Much was said about the virus of corruption and how Jacob Zuma’s reign has been fraught with pillage and plunder, with Anglogold Ashanti chairman Sipho Pityana delivering a scathing, yet inspiring, condemnation of the Zuma-led government, calling on business to lend its voice to the call for Zuma to step down.
I believe his exact words were: “We as business have a valid voice, but are not brave enough to make ourselves heard… The fact is that if we each continue to keep our heads down, protecting our own narrow self-interests, the business environment that we are so desperately trying to protect with our silence, will simply become unmanageable.”
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel delivered a similar condemnation of the Department of Mineral Resources, which is tainted by many cases of apparent abuse of power in its awarding of mining licenses, while the incumbent minister is incompetent at best and highly corrupt at worst.
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