Mining fault lines must be addressed: Lonmin

The mining industry need to address the fault lines in South African society that were laid bare after the tragic events at Marikana in 2012, says Lonmin chairperson Roger Phillimore.

Lonmin was stationed at the centre of the Marikana tragedy which ended with 50 people dead sending a message that all was not well within South Africa’s mining industry. The company took a lot of flak after allegations that one of its directors and BEE partner, ANC heavyweight Cyril Ramaphosa, pushed the police to take harsh actions against miners.  Ramaphosa who was elected ANC deputy president in December has since resigned from the board of the company to avoid conflict of interests.

Speaking at the company’s general meeting, Phillimore seemed to be committing the company to a process of major change to rebuild trust with workers. He said the Lonmin’s Board was determined “to improve the creation of value for all our stakeholders, and by doing that to enhance our long-term wealth-creation and investment potential.”

He added that the mining industry had to work with the government, unions and employees to rebuild trust and strengthen relationships in the mining sector aligned with the vision and objectives set out in the National Development Plan.  He said it would “require a fundamental change in the way we do things. We require a collaborative model of decision-making that will help to resolve problems and disagreements before they turn into violence.”

“The mining industry in South Africa is at a cross roads. It is imperative that Lonmin does its part to contribute to improved relations with its employees both in and outside the workplace. We are committing to a long-term process of fundamental change,” said Phillimore.

He said the the Company has established dedicated project teams which are looking at each of the following key areas:

1.       Employee relations – in particular, a renegotiation of its current union recognition dispensation. The objective is to conclude an agreement that provides appropriate representation to all the unions and associations having the support of a significant proportion of our employee base. The Company is also participating in industry discussions for the establishment of an industry forum for centralised engagement.

2.       Empowerment – amongst other proposals Lonmin is considering the implementation of an employee share ownership plan (ESOP), a community ownership trust; and closer co-operation on procurement and small medium and micro enterprise development (SMME) for the Greater Lonmin Community.

3.       Migrant and local labour – the Company will review the viability of alternative shift and leave patterns that will enable employees to return to their families much more regularly than has been possible. It will also look at setting targets for the proportion of its employees who come from the local community. The Company will consult widely with all internal and external stakeholders including Government to ensure that any unintended consequences are appropriately understood.

4.       Use of invested capital and infrastructure – Lonmin is investigating how to work with our unions and industry peers to find ways to make better use of our infrastructure and hence invested capital, reforming the shift system to improve the current situation. The aim is to generate the additional wealth required to provide better employment and living conditions in addition to possibly providing additional job opportunities.

5.       Housing and accommodation – Lonmin will complete the conversion of all its hostels to decent and affordable family or single accommodation units by 2014. In addition, the project team will identify the most effective ways of improving employees’ living conditions and create programmes to deliver on these commitments. We have launched a comprehensive review of requirements to create sustainable communities. The team will review infrastructure requirements, number, location and type of accommodation units required, the rental/ownership mix and the financial commitment necessary to achieve this.  We will partner with all levels of local Government, the Department of Human Settlements and projects such as the Presidential Task team’s Rustenburg living conditions initiative.

Commenting on the housing initiative Mr Phillimore said “employees must have access to decent accommodation with access to fresh water, proper sanitation and electricity.”

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