As Chinese officials point out, South Africa’s highly developed legal system sets it apart from other African countries. Given its unique features, Beijing’s interaction is more structured, broader and more complex than its interaction with other African countries.
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is mandated to formulate and imple.ment an overall minerals and energy policy to ensure the optimum use of minerals and energy. Within the DMR, the Minerals Policy and Promotion Branch is responsible for formulating and promoting a policy which will encourage investment in the mining and minerals industry, with a view to expanding this sector of the economy and pro.moting development. The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI) is responsible for implementing mine health and safety legislation, while the Mineral Regulation Branch (MRB) focuses on transformation in the mining industry and promoting sus.tainable development. The overarching policy of the DMR is based on the principles of the Freedom Charter, according to which South Africa’s mineral wealth will be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole. The Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), 2002 (No. 28 of 2002) provides the legal framework for exploitation of the country’s minerals. The government’s long-term objective is for all mineral rights to be vested in the state, but generally the state’s role has been to provide an appropriate legal framework as well as the necessary infra.structure to facilitate efficient raw material exploitation.
In May 2004, the Broad-based Socio-economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry was promulgated, and a scorecard devised to facilitate appli.cation of the charter. The charter has led to numerous black economic empowerment deals with back-owned companies. It stipulates that by 2014, historically disadvantaged individuals should control 26 percent of the mining industry. The DMR reports good progress on Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) in the mining sector, with 21 jun.ior mining companies being established by 2008. A number of new black-owned min.ing companies have become important players in the industry.
The National Environment Management Act (NEMA) identifies the Minister of Min.eral Resources as the responsible authority to ensure compliance with national envi.ronmental standards. A single and comprehensive environmental protection plan for all mining operations is being implemented across the country. Regular inspections are made to ensure compliance. As a consequence of significant environmental dam.age caused by mining, the DMR has contracted the Council for Scientific and Indus.trial Research (CSIR), the Council for Geo-Science (CGS) and Mintek to develop solutions to rehabilitate closed mines and protect the environment.6 This process re.sulted in the Sustainable Development Through Mining Programme to address a closed mines database, regional mine closure strategies, a sustainable development strategy for minerals and mining and mine environmental management guidelines. The DMR is promoting a gender empowerment programme in the mining industry, and has strengthened the South African Women in Mining Association (Sawima).
The Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) is responsible for protecting the health and safety of mineworkers. It focuses on building a healthier and safer mining envi.ronment by working with industry management and unions to reduce mine accidents. The agreed objective of this interaction is to decrease mine fatalities by at least 20 percent a year. Another objective is to eliminate silicosis and noise-induced hearing loss (or occupational deafness). A central activity is to reduce the social costs of disease and injury to mineworkers and their communities. In recent years, the DMR has begun working with the SA Police Service (SAPS) to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with illegal mining, now one of the biggest threats to mineworkers’ health and safety in South Africa.
Section 86 of the Health and Safety Amendment Act imposes criminal liability on mine managers where there has been negligence, but has been suspended until concerns about constitutionality are resolved. A key issue of debate in the mining industry is the accelerated effort to improve health and safety. Companies are legally obliged to fulfil certain requirements, but at the same time, many have developed new and in.novative health and safety programmes. New requirements for handling and using mine explosives are being introduced to bring South Africa in line with international best practice.
The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), under the authority of the Department of Labour is responsible for facilitating the development of appropriate knowledge and skills in the mining, minerals and jewellery sectors. The MQA is specifically fo.cussing on addressing skills shortages and promoting transformation in the mining industry. Training targets are set by the National Skills Development Strategy, informed by BEE, which demands that of all people trained, 85 percent should be black, 54 percent women and 4 percent people with disabilities. The MQA’s Mining Charter Support Strategy is based on an Executive Preparation Programme, the Graduate De.velopment Programme, bursary schemes, the Universities Employment Equity Project, and direct educational support for small-scale miners. Grants for small mines, mineral beneficiation, jewellery manufacturing and diamond processing are also provided. Human resource development guidelines drafted by the MQA call for improved op.portunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans in the industry, with 40 per.cent of blacks and 10 percent women required to occupy management positions by 2010.
The DMR promotes the establishment and development of small-scale mining through the Small-Scale Mining Board (SSMB) and the National Small-Scale Mining Development Framework. According to the DMR, approximately 3000 new jobs can be created for every 15 small-scale mining projects. The SSMB helps aspiring small-scale miners in identifying mineral deposits, concluding environmental impact assess.ments (EIAs), legal and contractual arrangements, mining-feasibility studies, market research, and sourcing mining equipment. The focus of activities is on developing vi.able mining projects and assessing the feasibility of new projects. The South African Small-Scale Mining Chamber was established in 2005 to represent the interests of small mining operators. With a view to job creation, the DMR has supported 18 small-scale mines, with a number of new projects under consideration.
In response to the challenges faced by the industry, the government has established the Mining Industry Growth, Development and Employment Task Team (Migdett), intended to improve its competitiveness and growth. The specific objectives are to save jobs in the face of falling global demand for raw materials, and to position the industry for growth and transformation. The task team is investigating all aspects of the mining industry in South Africa, with a view to positioning it to take advantage of the expected demand increase within twelve to eighteen months.