The Eastern Cape Mining Indaba returned for its second year to facilitate an in-depth multi-stakeholder dialogue on issues affecting the mining sector in the province.
The Indaba is a collaboration between stakeholders from the mining industry in the Eastern Cape and SADC region, community, government, miners’ associations, organised business, and organised labour.
Convened under the theme: "Sivala Umsantsa, Sakha Ngokutsha – Bridging the divide, exploring new opportunities” the two-day Indaba, held on 17 to 18 October 2023 in the East London International Convention Centre (ICC), discussed bridging the gap between traditional authorities, government, communities, environmentalists, and mining companies for efficient and sustainable mining practices in the province.
The Indaba also discussed reviving and explorations of mines in the Eastern Cape and accelerating the inclusion of women and amplifying the voice of the youth in the sector. The Indaba also paid homage to the Eastern Cape for playing a major role in South Africa’s mining industry.
"What inspired the hosting of this Indaba is the knowledge and historical fact of the Eastern Cape being the biggest supplier of mining labour in South Africa. Basically, the economy of this country and the backbone of the mining industry are born on the backs of our people who are from the Eastern Cape,” said organiser of the Indaba, Tando Mandela.
This year, the Indaba further put emphasis on investor relations in technology, energy, infrastructure, training, and skills development.
Who attended the Indaba
The Indaba took a keynote address from Eastern Cape Premier Hon. Oscar Mabuyane which was delivered in absentia of the Premier by Eastern Cape Health MEC Hon. Nomakhosazana Meth. The Deputy Speaker of the Eastern Cape Legislature Hon. Mlibo Qoboshiyane delivered a speech that set the scene for the Indaba.
Other notable delegates included Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) Head of Rehabilitation Dr Miranda Moloto, broadcast journalist Peter Ndoro who facilitated panel discussions, CEO of Star School Group Vimala Ariyan, Head of Marketing and Logistics at Botswana’s Morupule Coal Mines Albert Meiring, Chairperson of Southern African Miners’ Association (SAMA) Sonwabile Jabu Xaba, Mineworkers Development Agency (MDA) Head of Strategy and Special Projects Luthando Brukwe, Generations Engineering Managing Director and Founder Pana Nontoazifani Xalabile and many more.
For Premier Mabuyane, the Indaba presented the province with an opportunity to engage positively on how the Eastern Cape could use its natural resources to create jobs, grow its economy and lift people out of poverty, and inequality.
He said however this was not being achieved due to a standoff with environmental lobby groups who were opposed to mining in the province.
"Our province is endowed with natural resources, but our biggest challenge is our inability to seize the opportunities for development of the mineral sector within the province. We are not short of opportunities in mining in the Eastern Cape, our biggest challenge are environmental lobby groups led by well off individuals who are hell bent on frustrating the development of our province.” the Premier said.
The Premier expanded further on this point: "We have large deposits of coal in the Chris Hani Districts that should be mined for both domestic use and export market. We have proven deposits of titanium in areas such as Xolobeni, a mineral that could change the economic landscape of the Eastern side of our province and address the sea of poverty that our people in that region suffer from. We have huge potential to transform the construction sector through Quarrying and beneficiate communities where such mining takes place. SANRAL is building major road infrastructure projects in our province and the stone they use for these projects is mined in our province. The question we must ask is are our communities benefiting from that resources or are they anti-mining?”
In his address to the Indaba Hon. Qoboshiyane said the Eastern Cape can create a mining industry that truly benefits all people of the province and South Africa.
"The theme of this year’s Indaba is a call for building a collaborative future with strategic leadership. It encapsulates the challenges and aspirations that lie at the heart of our province’s development. The theme is not only timely but also deeply relevant to our province’s quest for sustainable development,” Hon. Qoboshiyane said.
He said to harness the potential of the mining sector for sustainable socioeconomic development, it was crucial to adopt a model that aligns with the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"We are here to explore and propose a model for a sustainable mining ecosystem, one that aligns with the Africa Mining Vision and the Sustainable Development Goals, while fostering meaningful public involvement through advocacy, education, collaboration and empowerment,” said Hon. Qoboshiyane.
Meiring said they were willing to invest in coal mining in the Eastern Cape borrowing from their experience in Botswana: "There are a lot of willing, skilled, capable, and extremely knowledgeable people who want to make business work here. I am very confident that if we get the right partners together, we can get coal mining done here in the Eastern Cape.”
Compensation of ex-mine workers
The compensation for ex-miners also took centre stage at the Indaba when Xaba gave a 30-minute presentation to the gathering. He said SAMA represented ex-mine workers employed in South African mines from 1965. He said these former mine workers came from nine different countries – South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Namibia - in the SADC region.
"Of course, the largest number of these ex-miners comes from South Africa and particularly in the Eastern Cape. One third of people who worked in South African mines are exclusively coming from the Eastern Cape, this means in every three ex mine workers who are South Africans, one is coming from the Eastern Cape.”
He said the organisation worked to unlock unpaid and unclaimed social protection benefits and occupational health compensation i.e., pension funds, provident funds that are due to ex-mine workers but have not been paid.
Xaba said they were working with the Eastern Cape provincial government in a collaborative campaign to ensure that ex-mine workers receive their rightful compensation. The programme is part of government’s efforts to track, trace and pay ex-mine workers or their dependants who qualify for compensation funds.
Xaba said while the initiative called the Eastern Cape Ex-mine Workers Intervention Programme, was piloted, spearheaded, and championed in the Eastern Cape it was also being implemented at national level and SADC region.
In the province outreach programmes had already been undertaken in Ngqeleni under the Nyandeni Local Municipality and Dr AB Xuma Local Municipality.
"We have concerted developmental benefits that are attached to this tag of the Eastern Cape being a labour sending area. There are Social and Labour Plans by which mining companies are compelled to plough back to the community as one of the conditions for them to hold mining licenses in the country, and the legislation has since been amended. The contribution through Social and Labour Plans talks to 60 percent being spent or utilised within the mining hosting communities such as Mpumalanga, Free State and North West and 40 percent goes to labour sending areas, now this is one particular potential space for the Eastern Cape to safe guard, explore and capitalise on, so as to optimize its benefits for the benefit of our people and the benefit of our province,” Xaba said.
Brukwe’s presentation painted a picture for delegates at the Indaba of work currently being done to augment the loss of income of former mine workers, their beneficiaries, and the communities they come from.
"We provide socio economic development through four key thematic areas. The first one is food security and poverty alleviation where we assist more than 15 000 households with home food gardens, we assist small scale farmers with implements and startup equipment, we also have a woolgrowers’ programme that is in Alfred Ndzo, O.R. Tambo and Amathole District Municipalities where we have 350 woolgrowers who we assist on a daily basis with vaccination of their sheep and shearing facilities.
We also have a beekeeping programme that we are running nationwide, where we have produced and distributed 7200 beehives to 720 up-and-coming small-scale beekeepers. In the Eastern Cape we have distributed 1200 beehives in Peddie, Fort Beaufort, Adelaide, Seymour, Alice, Dutywa and Willowvale,” Brukwe said.
Brukwe said as part of the MDA’s enterprise development programme, beneficiaries are offered off-take agreements in beekeeping. He said the off-take agreement are R85 per kilogram of honey produced.
"We are also pushing that by next year we get into the wool industry in order to assist our 350 woolgrowers in the Eastern Cape,” he said.
Eastern Cape Mining Review
According to data from Statistics South Africa, the Eastern Cape mining sector was the biggest contributor to the provincial GDP in 2022Q4 (3,5%) but slumped in 2023Q2 (-2,0%).
A panellist at the Indaba from the Department of Mineral Resources, Nokuyolo Filtane, told the gathering that minerals which are currently being exploited in the Eastern Cape were; dimension stone and stone aggregate, brick clay, building sand, limestone, and pebbles.
Filtane said minerals deposits with economic potential in the province were; kaolin, limestone, dolomites and aggregates. She said mining occurrences with uncertain economic potential were coal, nickel, copper, and lithium.
Mandela said while mineral exploration should be accelerated in the Eastern Cape, government should consult extensively with communities who will be impacted by mining through a deliberate and targeted social facilitation process.
Eastern Cape Oceans Economy Secretariat and Project Officer for Stakeholder Engagement and Liaison at ECSECC Viwe Fokwebe also addressed the gathering at the Indaba.
"The mining conversation is still at its infancy in the Eastern Cape. It is critical that the provincial Oceans Economy Secretariat influences the mining dialogue and create platforms for a broad range of economy stakeholders to share views to ensure inclusive economic development. The Eastern Cape Mining Indaba has provided the opportunity for us to engage meaningfully. We want to profile the mineral sector and understand the full value chain in ocean mining. Our 800km coastline contributes to the endless opportunity and the mineral sector adds to the compelling value proposition of our province. My takeaway from the Indaba is that the Eastern Cape must seize the opportunities, drive, and close the gaps,” Fokwebe said.
Hon. Mabuyane said the Eastern Cape’s international partnerships, whether through the BRICS association, African Continental Free Trade Area, or its collaboration with Arabic nations for exports, will amplify the province’s global footprint on mining.
"Let’s collectively write a new chapter of growth and prosperity for the Eastern Cape. Together, we can, and we will build a brighter, more prosperous future for our beloved province. Let’s embark on this journey together with hope and a vision in our eyes. For the Eastern Cape, for our future, and for generations to come," Hon. Mabuyane said.