Johannesburg – The Chamber of Mines is able to hold government to account and ensure that its own house is in order, its President Mxolisi Mgojo said on Thursday.
Delivering a speech at the Joburg Indaba mining conference, Mgojo described mining as "the flywheel of the South African economy.
"When mining does well, it lifts many other sectors."
The Chamber has for the past few months been involved in an acrimonious public dispute with Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane over the new Mining Charter.
On Tuesday the mining body chose to skip a industry dinner where the minister was a guest speaker. The Department of Minerals Resources said this was "a pity".
While he underlined mining's contribution to the economy, Mgojo also acknowledged its past role in shaping SA society.
“We need to be frank and acknowledge that our predecessors were party to the development of many of the ugliest features of our society, some of which remain with us today,” he said.
Among these were the migrant labour system and other official policies that discriminated against black workers. “We recognise the continuing socio-economic legacies of this history,” he said.
“We only need to look at the state of some mining towns and the composition of our workforces to know that the legacies have not been fully overcome.”
"We were – and remain - supportive of the new mineral rights regime that transferred the ownership of mineral rights to the custodianship of the state," said Mgojo.
He said the industry had taken steps to transform and better represent all South Africans, noting the "large number" of mainly black-owned mining companies. “Transformation is a process and not an event. And, we have much more work to do,” he said.
Mgojo said it was important for transformation - which he said the Chamber supported - to be carried out properly. “We will stand against being forced to do it in a way that we believe will destroy the industry and benefit only a narrow group of interests.”
Transformation, competitiveness and growth were mutually reinforcing, he added. “It is difficult to transform without competitiveness and growth and similarly it is difficult to be competitive and grow without transformation.”
Mgojo said the Chamber, which acts as mining industry's employers organisation, was able to both hold its own members to account while calling for "ethical leadership and good governance in government".
"We will engage key stakeholders on this journey and where necessary turn to the courts to ensure outcomes that are in the national interest.
“As the leadership of the Chamber we have drawn a firm line in the sand regarding our opposition to unethical leadership, bad governance and state capture.”
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