JOHANNESBURG – South32 chief executive Mike Fraser yesterday highlighted the need to address the escalating number of community protests on the doorstep of mining operations.
Fraser told the Joburg Indaba that with South Africa’s economic malaise and rising unemployment, mining communities were increasingly dependent on local operations.
“In the last 12 months, we have seen an escalation in organised protests which are in the interest of a small number of individuals who ask us to breach standard commercial processes for their own benefit,” Fraser said.
Fraser also noted an increase in illegal mining activity.
“These activities are disruptive to our operations when they escalate to a point where they risk the safety of our people and the local community,” he said.
Fraser said while the protests had occurred across the country, they had been a particular challenge for communities around the company’s Energy Coal business in Mpumalanga.
He noted that the draft Integrated Resource Plan forecasted a decline in coal-fired power by 2030.
“We know we have a responsibility to contribute to the economic stability and development in the regions around our mines,” he said.
“But we need a continued and co-ordinated effort to manage the threat of organised protests and we cannot allow illegal mining.
"An increase in the frequency of these specific actions will have a long-term impact on South Africa’s competitiveness and ability to attract investment.”
Fraser said the company’s South Africa Energy Coal business was working together with other coal producers in Mpumalanga to address concerns raised by the communities.
He said the Department of Minerals and Energy had supported the process.
South 32, the Australian headquartered company that was established in 2015 after being spun off from global diversified mining giant BHP Billiton, announced in August that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with black-owned Seriti Resources to acquire its South Africa Energy Coal business.
Seriti Resources chief executive Mike Teke said earlier that the mining industry needed to start building collaboration with communities.
He also said that coal remained viable, despite concerns on climate change.
“Coal is a fossil fuel, and Sub-Saharan Africa is going to use coal for a long time. We should not be thinking we are going to switch off from coal. I am speaking for coal and am not an environmental denialist,” said Teke.
Fraser said that when the company announced its intention to broaden ownership of South Africa Energy Coal in November 2017, its vision was that it should be a sustainable business for the long-term and that it should become South African black-owned.