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Informal miners tackle DMR deputy minister over mining rights

  • by African Times
  • 8 Months ago
  • 0

LUCAS LEDWABA

THE department of mineral resources is gunning for mining companies in a bid to gauge their compliance with
Social Labour Plans.
This comes in the wake of minister Mosebenzi Zwane releasing the revised Mining Charter which has been met with hostility by mining companies who are threatening legal action against the department.

Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant told a meeting to discuss unlicensed mining in Burgersfort recently that the department will be conducting checks on company’s compliance with Social Labour Plans [SLPs].
The SLPs are a legal requirement that forces mining companies to empower the communities where they operate.

There has been dissatisfaction among many communities about the level and willingness of mining companies to invest in skills development and empowerment of people in the communities they operate, especially in Limpopo and North West which are the country’s major contributors of platinum.
“We will be checking SLPs and asking companies how they have empowered locals,” said Oliphant.

The miners accused mining companies of failing to consult communities before commencing with mining activities and questioned why they were not being dealt with by the law enforcement agencies since they are also breaking the law.

HEAR ME OUT: Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant makes a point during a meeting with unlicensed chrome miners at the Thaba Moshate Resort and Conference Centre in Burgersfort. Photo: Lucas LedwabaMukurukuru Media

They also accused the mining companies of flouting regulations by blasting and conducting their operations within 500 metres of households and offered residents a paltry R700 to relocate. The angry miners told Oliphant to instruct police to leave their illegal operations and return machinery confiscated during raids.

Oliphant was in Burgersfort, the heartland of chrome and platinum mining in the province for a consultation with the miners who have been at odds with the law in recent months.

Police have raided areas in the Sekhukhune and Burgersfort areas and confiscated equipment including earth moving machines excavators used by the unlicensed miners, mostly residents of rural villages located near formal platinum and chrome mines.
“Tell the police to leave. We want to work,” Kgaogelo Mapoulo told Oliphant during the session.

Mapoulo said he survives by brokering deals between the unlicensed miners and buyers who come from as far as Johannesburg.
“Did God put us next to this chrome belt by mistake? We cannot just be caretakers of the minerals in our own land. Tell the police we are not afraid of them. We just respect them,” said Mapoulo.

It is estimated that at least 10 000 people who make a living from the mining operations have been affected by the police raids. Mining companies have also permanently deployed armed security personnel to deny unlicensed miners access to the mining areas.

“Why should it only be us black people who are being targeted?” asked Sipho Mabuza, an unlicensed miner from Riba Cross near Steelpoort.
It was revealed also that the price of chrome on the informal market stood at R2 500 per ton. Some of the informal miners are said to have managed to mine over 20 000 tons using excavators that are hired from contractors who are part of the value chain at amounts ranging from R500 a day.
“We are mining on our land. Why should we get arrested? Why does government target us?” lamented Shadrack Makgopa, also an unlicensed miner.

Mapoulo, who said he is an ANC member in good standing said the arrest of the unlicensed miners was in
contradiction of the Freedom Charter which states that the mineral wealth of the country shall be restored to the
people.
“Our children are hungry,” said Mapoulo, who estimated that at least 5 000 households in the Sekhukhune area depend on informal chrome mining. “Our government has failed us. They coined this phrase “illegal mining” to stop us from benefitting from the minerals in our own land. Their aim is just to frustrate us,” he said.

He said the crackdown on the miners was in contrast to government’s slogan of Vuk’uzenzele, which encourages citizens to be self-sufficient and not rely on the state. Oliphant said the department will return in about three weeks to give feedback to the unlicensed miners.

He encouraged the miners to apply for permits and ensure they complied with regulations.
“I agree that we must give you permits. But you need to apply for them. But a permit comes with responsibility, [which includes] health [and] safety and people’s lives,” said Oliphant.

But Mapoulo was not impressed. “This meeting resolved nothing. He [Oliphant] just came here for compliance. This was just a political response,” he charged.
The meeting comes in the wake of growing anger in affected communities which have been rocked in recent months by protest that has been met with force by police and mine security.

It also comes just days after Minister of Mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane released the revised Mining Charter which has been met with hostility by mining houses.

Mining is the biggest contributor to Limpopo’s GDP. Oliphant is set to meet with traditional leaders from the area tomorrow. – LimBizzNews

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