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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Ramaphosa says mining has transformed significantly since apartheid era

Ramaphosa said during apartheid, the mining sector was “notorious for labour exploitation, human rights violations, and poor health and safety standards.

As the country celebrates 30 years of democracy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said mining is a pillar of an economy which has undergone significant transformation from the apartheid era.

Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address at the opening of the 2024 Mining Indaba in Cape Town, where industry heavyweights meet to talk shop.

This year’s Indaba theme is about embracing the power of positive disruption. The transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy, society and world is one of the most significant positive disruptions of the modern age.

Mining transformation

Ramaphosa said over the last three decades, South Africa’s mining industry has undergone significant transformation.

“For nearly 150 years, mining has been a pillar of the South African economy. It currently contributes roughly 7.5 percent towards GDP and accounts for some 60 percent of South African exports by value.

“In 2004, when the Mining Charter was first introduced, black ownership in the industry stood at some 2 percent. Today this stands at approximately 39 per cent.” Ramaphosa said.

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Ramaphosa added that during apartheid, the mining sector was “notorious for labour exploitation, human rights violations, and poor health and safety standards.”  

“Today, miners employ approximately 476 000 people.  Mineworkers can organise and rights are protected. A legal regime confers responsibility on mining companies to provide quality services and promote development in the communities where they operate.

“There are also many employee share ownership schemes through which mineworker participation in mining companies is being promoted,” the president said.

Bottle necks

Ramaphosa warned the energy crisis and port and rail bottlenecks are putting serious pressure on miners’ operational costs.

Illicit mining, cable theft and infrastructure vandalism place a further strain on mining output and returns.  We are committed to working hard and working together to overcome these serious challenges.”

He said the government last year outlined four objectives to develop the sector, improve its global competitiveness and harness the global drive towards sustainable development.

“The first is to achieve a secure supply of electricity.  The second objective we identified was to accelerate economic reforms to improve the operating environment. The third objective we identified was to tackle illegal mining and damage to infrastructure.

“Finally, we committed in 2023 to improve the regulatory environment by developing and putting in place a new cadastral system to assist in operating a modern mining rights administration system,” Ramaphosa said.

Just energy

Ramaphosa said South Africa is also pursuing a just energy transition at a pace and scale that the country can afford.

“Our Just Energy Transition Investment Plan outlines a pathway to create new industries and support more livelihoods in the green economy.

“The delivery of this plan is premised on strong collaboration between government and all social partners. It cannot be overstated how crucial the mining sector is to the success of just outcomes, notably in regions like Mpumalanga,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said mining has a crucial role to play in “building the economy of tomorrow.”

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