Mining should develop SA, not enrich a few – Motlanthe

2012-04-18 10:57

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says mineral rights should go where they can best develop the country, rather than enrich a few at the expense of creating jobs.

Speaking at the international mining conference in Johannesburg yesterday evening, Motlanthe said transformation in the country’s mining industry should be seen in rising employment in the sector as well as its downstream industries, such as capital goods production and beneficiation.

Motlanthe said “a mining industry that uses national resources almost exclusively to enrich a tiny minority is not sustainable”.

The government wanted to see more women and black people in skilled trades and the management of mines, he said.

“And we want communities around the mines to benefit from improved facilities and infrastructure, and to have a secure future long after the mines themselves have ended production,” Motlanthe said.

South Africa is believed to be the richest country in terms of mineral reserves. The American banking group Citigroup estimated the mineral deposits at $2.5 trillion in a report released about a year ago.

The industry, which has been the bedrock of the country’s economy for decades, has been a subject of national debate since the ANC Youth League started calling for the nationalisation of mines three years ago. The ANC also commissioned a study to assess the viablility of such a proposal.

Motlanthe said the challenge to transformation in mining was how it could be achieved without saddling the industry with uncertainty and costs.

The government was committed to “improving infrastructure as a key step towards maintaining the mining industry as a central export sector in our economy”, he said. This includes ensuring reliable electricity and improving facilities such as rail.

University of Johannesburg academic Peter Alexander said there was a need to preserve the country’s mining history, saying modern capitalism would not have happened without South Africa’s gold.

He said there had been suggestions that the entire Witwatersrand basin should be turned into a world heritage site because of its contribution to mining history.

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