Graca Machel: Mining much more than growth

Graça Machel (File, AFP)
Graça Machel (File, AFP)

Cape Town - Conducting business as usual can produce economic growth, but mining in Africa is not about growth alone as it did not bring about equity, Graca Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development told the Mining Indaba on its last day on Thursday.

In a keynote address on harnessing the transformative power of the mining industry on the African continent, South Africa’s former first lady told mining delegates that conducting business as usual “can produce (economic) growth… but it doesn’t always produce development, let alone sustainability. More importantly, it doesn’t bring equity (in the community).”

Touching on a theme raised at the Alternative Mining Indaba - held at a hotel in Cape Town to rival the Mining Indaba - Machel supported the concept of creating community funds which could be funded by mining companies to do positive things in mining communities.

It was important that the leadership of the community was involved in the management and work of these funds.

“This is to develop expertise (including taking) issues of the environment seriously. This planet doesn’t only belong to us… it belongs to our grandchildren,” she said. In the areas of mining, water contamination needed to be avoided and agricultural activities needed to be protected.

READ: Mining bosses dared to drink toxic water

Machel also underpinned the theme first raised at the beginning of the conference by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair that there needs to be partnerships between mining companies, the government and civil society, particularly the communities affected by mining activities.

Machel, who is the widow of former Mozambique president Samora Machel as well as former South African president Nelson Mandela, said there also had to be “a deliberate plan” to draw more women into the ownership, management and work of mining companies.

Noting that there were arguments that women could not be part of “demanding work” in the mining, which she said she understood, she remarked that this did not mean that women could not be part of the management of mining companies or could not provide “strategic thinking” or be part of mining ownership.

"I think part of the problem we have with the mining industry… are the structural issues that we have to deal with (in South Africa) if we are to have a healthy industry,” she said.

In South Africa there was a need to have a national indaba to discuss how to deal with the apartheid spatial patterns and legacy.

Responding to a delegate who said she was from Rustenburg and mining companies were not investing in women, Machel said it was about a mindset: “I tell them give (a woman) an opportunity, test my products and then decide whether I can deliver or not. That has mainly to do with mindset.”

Women needed to constantly talk to those who were decision makers in mining to persuade them about the contribution that they can make, Machel said.

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