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

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    Numerous national election surveys show former secretary of state defeating presumptive Republican nominee with tough talk to halt illegal immigration and temporarily block Muslims from entering country

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora