While in favour of the broad growth goals of the national
Infrastructure Development Plan, trade union UASA points out that
it is a long term plan, and that while it is being implemented,
mines are shutting down and employees are losing their jobs.
Franz Stehring, UASA divisional manager for mineral resources,
believes that the Northern Cape-Saldanha development corridor
provided for by strategic integration project (SIP) 5 is a key
priority of the infrastructure development plan for mines.
"Areas of the Northern Cape cannot be mined at this stage
because of a lack of transport infrastructure," he says.
Once the appropriate railway structure is in place, those mines
will become more viable, resulting in more employment and the
growth of beneficiation in the region. He asserts that provisions
for improved power infrastructure development will support mining
in the long term. However, Stehring points out that in the short
term, other measures could be taken to support marginal mines and
"The cost of power is crippling marginal mines,
particularly in light of winter tariffs. Look at a mine like
Blyvooruitzicht near Carletonville — the cost of power played
a major role in shutting it down, leaving thousands of people
without jobs and impacting the overall economy of the area."
UASA believes parastatals such as Eskom should support the overall
growth of the economy through their operations, and that in the
case of mines, which employ large numbers of workers, these
parastatals should adapt their pricing in such a way that the
overall good of the economy comes before profits.
"We don't think a parastatal such as Eskom should make
a profit at all," says Stehring. "Any profit should be
ploughed back in to development and the subsidisation of sectors
that need support. If marginal mines were given suitable tax breaks
and power subsidies, while wealthy mines paid a form of 'super
tax' to support these subsidies, you would not have so many
mines in danger of closing."
"Infrastructure development is crucial for overall
development of the mining sector"
UASA also believes that the labour problem challenging many
mines in recent years could be addressed through better worker
"The Draft Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining
Industry makes provision for long-term programmes that will educate
blue collar workers," he says. "But until these
programmes are implemented and bear fruit, mines are being
challenged by unrealistic wage expectations. You have a situation
where unrealistic, double digit demands are being made, with no
understanding of CPI realities," he says. "Education will
help to address this challenge." In the long term,
infrastructure development is crucial for overall development of
the mining sector, says Stehring.
"We say, let's get those corridors open into the
Northern Cape, but let us also look at better fiscal and tax
initiatives and education programmes that make an immediate
difference to mining," he says.
This article first appeared in the Mail & Guardian
supplement, 31 January 2013
The NUM, Numsa and Amcu were approached for their views on the
national infrastructure development plan, but did not respond by
the time of publication
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