News / Africa

S. Africa Mining Unrest Overshadows Major Conference

Mine workers gather at Wonderkop stadium outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 29, 2014.
Mine workers gather at Wonderkop stadium outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 29, 2014.
Anita Powell
Unrest in South Africa’s mining sector is overshadowing the nation’s largest mining event, scheduled for next week in Cape Town. Investors are worried that a union leading a platinum mining strike has failed to reach a deal, and economic justice activists say the system is flawed. 

The annual Mining Indaba -- the Zulu word for “gathering” -- is undoubtedly the biggest mining sector event in the nation.  It brings together industry leaders, government officials and investors to discuss billion-dollar deals in an industry that claims the lion’s share of South Africa’s economy.
 
But this year’s Indaba is overshadowed by strife in the mining sector.
 
South Africa’s most powerful platinum mining union launched an indefinite strike on January 23.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, AMCU, is demanding to almost double the minimum wage for entry-level miners, to about $1,200 per month.
 
Negotiations are ongoing as some 70,000 workers in the nation’s “platinum belt” have stopped work.
 
The three largest platinum producers -- Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin - say the wage demand is unsustainable, and say the strike is costing them more than $17 million per day combined.
 
Mining Indaba Vice President and Managing Director Jonathan Moore says the strike is a topic of concern for investors -- and will be discussed at the gathering.
 
“The thing that we hear from investors frequently is that they are seeking a scenario where there is consistency and transparency so that they can best assess the opportunities that they have to make investments," Moore said.  "And so, anytime that there is unrest, anytime there are disruptions, I think it’s concerning to investors.  And certainly they’ll be seeking insights both from mining company executives, mining ministers that are here and active throughout the Indaba, and other industry experts on their views on what might come next.”
 
But Moore says this concern isn’t driving investors away from the event -- which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.  It will be well-attended. Organizers expect some 7,800 delegates from more than 100 countries.
 
Just a few blocks from the main mining event, the Economic Justice Forum -- a church-affiliated group -- will be holding their own gathering, the Alternative Mining Indaba.
 
The group’s executive director Malcolm Damon says that while they have no position regarding the outcome of the strike, they will take a closer look at the human cost of the industry.
 
“Workers are not satisfied with that," he said. "And workers are saying, ‘We have certain rights, we have also a right when it comes to our health and when we go underground,’ and therefore these things need to be taken into consideration, the situation of workers, the living wage of workers so that workers can feel they are contributing and not only being exploited by mining companies.”
 
Ph.D student Crispen Chinguno, who spent a year studying the community in South Africa’s platinum belt, says that labor issues are a human rights issue and need to be part of the conversation at the main indaba.
 
“We need to take cognizance of the fact that these people, they are human beings, they need a decent life, decent work," Chinguno said.  "I would expect maybe the Mining Indaba to look into how do we deal with the question around labor, how do we move away from this cheap labor regime that has persisted for the past 150 years in the mining industry in South Africa?”

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid