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South Africa: The Price of Platinum
Sep 6, 2012 (120906)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The recent study of the Bench Marks Foundation has
predicted the problems now seen at Marikana. If all the
mining houses had addressed the underlying causes of unrest
and provided both workers and local communities with the
opportunity to live a decent life, the killings could have
been avoided." - Reverend Jo Seoka
Less publicized than diamonds or gold, platinum mining is
also still one of the mainstays of the South African
economy. As other mining sectors, historically dependent on
cheap black labor and featuring a partnership of
international and South African big business interests, it
is under pressure to maintain profit levels for its
investors in the face of fluctuating international prices.
London-based Lonmin, the company owning the mines where
striking miners were killed last month, and the third-lagest
platinum producer worldwide, was even before the
strike of the most vulnerable to market pressures, one of
the factors leading to its intransigence in the face of
worker demands (see http://tinyurl.com/bpqbqa for a recent
update, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonmin for a brief company history and description). But the issues at stake affect the entire industry.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin, not sent out by e-mail but
available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/saf1209b.php, contains
a statement on recent events on the mine by Reverend Jo
Seoka, as well as excerpts from a background report on the
platinum mining industry just published by the Bench Marks
Foundation, a church-related social responsibility
organization that has been investigating the impact of the
industry for several years.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out by e-mail and
available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/saf1209a.php, contains two
among the many insightful commentaries that have appeared
since the police shot the striking miners at Marikana on
August 16, 2012, namely an open letter to COSATU by Jay
Naidoo, and a background analysis by Martin Legassick.
Additional articles worth noting include:
"Marikana: The miners were hunted like beasts" by Greg
Mail & Guardian, 31 Aug 2012
Most miners shot out of view of cameras at close range, not
while attacking police [for additional reports see
http://allafrica.com/stories/201209050888.html on possible
charges against police. Also search Google on Marikana +
"Marikana: No common purpose to commit suicide," by Pierre
Constitutionally Speaking, Aug 30, 2012
On the murder charges initially lodged against the miners
"Marikana eyewitness: 'He raised his hands, they shoot him
in the head'" by Mandy de Waal
Daily Maverick, September 6, 2012
"Marikana is South Africa's turning point" by William Gumede
Guardian, Aug. 29, 2012
"The brutal exposure of South Africa's inequality may at
last shock the governing elite out of its complacency"
"What Went Wrong At Marikana?" by Alex Lichtenstein
Los Angeles Review of Books, September 1st, 2012
Background analysis on platinum industry
"Mass Murder of Miners and Neo-Liberalism in South Africa"
Video interview with Vishwas Satga and transcript
Real News Network, September 2, 2012
Very useful background analysis by one of leaders of
movement for solidarity with the miners
"Charges against miners raise questions" by
By Jo Seoka
Business Report, September 5 2012
Rt Reverend Dr Jo Seoka is an Anglican bishop, the president
of the SA Council of Churches and chairman of the Bench
"The rise and rise of Amcu" by Jan de Lange
City Press, 2012-08-19
Background on the independent union involved in the strike
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on South Africa, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Opinion - Lonmin should have listened- Business Report
August 29 2012
By Rev Jo Seoka
Bench Marks Foundation
-Right Reverend Doctor Jo Seoka, an Anglican bishop, is the
chairman of Bench Marks Foundation and the president of the
SA Council of Churches
The killings at Marikana could have been avoided if Lonmin's
management had listened to the workers' concerns. There was
no need for the strike â let alone the violence that led to
the loss of 44 lives.
A democracy should provide for the human rights of all
citizens, including the right to decent work, a living wage
and collective bargaining. South Africa won its democratic
character through negotiations, where people came together
to discuss their way towards a solution for the common good
of all. For this reason, the nation and the world was
shocked at the news of the brutal killings of the people who
dig up the wealth of this country.
Platinum is one of the most precious resources the country
has to use for its development. Our constitution is said to
be one of the best in the world, but the majority of
citizens are yet to enjoy the freedom provided by the
On our visit to the Marikana mines on August 16 we first
made contact with the strikers on the koppie. Having
introduced ourselves, we asked how we could help to resolve
the conflict that at that point had already cost 10 lives.
The spokesperson for the workers asked that we convey their
desire for the employer to come and address them. The
workers asked specifically for Mr Ian Farmer, the chief
executive, whom they called "umqashi" (boss). Without
promising them anything we left to ask Mr Farmer to come
with us to talk to the strikers.
At the mine offices we met three managers who told us that
workers could not see Farmer as he was not in the country,
but sick in London. We asked if someone could address the
strikers in his place, but (we) were told the management
would not talk to criminals because they had killed security
We pleaded with them, ultimately (a) meeting with
Lieutenant-General Zukiswa Mbombo who told us that security
was a concern, and this was not negotiable. She left us with
the management who told us to inform the strikers that
management would only talk to them if they:
* Surrendered their weapons;
* Elected between five and eight people to represent them;
* Dispersed from the koppie.
As we left, one manager told us that we could not go back to
the koppie as it was now a security-risk area under the
police. We headed for the road back to Gauteng and fifteen
minutes later my cellphone rang. A voice on the other side
said: âThe police are killing us.â We heard bullets but (we)
were helpless. The following day we saw on the pictures of
one of the leaders we spoke with lying dead â the man in the
Here's a country that claims to promote dialogue, while
being at war with itself.
How can we forget so soon how we have arrived at where we
are today? There is an African proverb that says things are
corrected through talking. People are encouraged to talk
about their differences instead of resorting to fighting. It
is for this reason that we believe the mine management could
have done things differently.
It is not a matter of who shot at whom first â important as
this question is â but rather finding a solution to save
more lives from violence and to address the flaws in our
On Monday, August 20, we went back to Marikana to consult
with the local clergy on how best we could be of help to
those who had died in the violence. About four church
leaders resolved that we must go and talk with the workers.
After addressing them we asked the management if they could
talk to the strikers. Ultimately, executive vice-president
Bernard Mokwena agreed to meet the strikers' delegation. We
left to convince the strikers to meet with the executives.
It took about five hours to negotiate a safe place where the
talks could take place. Late in the afternoon we brought the
two parties under one roof and talks started.
On Tuesday we reconvened. The strikers' delegates put their
demands before the management team who received them and
asked that they be given a chance to study and discuss them
before giving answers the following day. It was not an easy
meeting but there was understanding and willingness to
engage each other.
On Wednesday we met again to get the management's response.
The management tried to give answers and the delegation
received them and promised to give them to their members.
Notwithstanding, on Wednesday the two parties agreed on the
need for mourning and that talks be postponed until after
the memorial service and funeral, but that talks would
resume on Monday, August 27. Talks were mutual and cordial
all along, which proves that talking can bring about
understanding and resolution to a very difficult issue.
The judicial commission, established by President Jacob
Zuma, is welcomed. We hope it will be able to consult widely
to reveal the truth about the Marikana killings. This has to
be done in the context of widespread poverty, exclusion and
profiteering at any cost.
The management and church leaders have talked and agreed on
building peace during the talks. However, we are now taken
aback to learn that the Minister of Labour, Lonmin
management and trade unions have made different arrangements
to address the issue. This disrupts the talks and trust
already established. We do not believe that leaving the
workers outside this peace process will yield any lasting
fruits, but rather more problems.
As church leaders we are careful not to be used for personal
ends, but to help bring about a sustainable solution and
peace at the workplace.
The workers have repeatedly asked to be taken seriously and
for access to engage constructively with the management.
Short cut solutions are not likely to last, but to cause
more trouble. The solution lies in bosses engaging in
collective bargaining with the striking workers. If a
solution is not found that includes the striking workers,
workers will maintain their suspicion that management is not
interested in them â only committed to pleasing shareholders
through resuming production.
The Marikana incident is a reminder and an opportunity for
the nation to take stock of the state of affairs in our
democratic dispensation. What has gone wrong, we must ask
ourselves. It is futile to talk about social cohesion and
the need for dialogue when we are not communicating with
Why did we vote and for whom did we cast our vote if those
we put into power are not at the service of the people, but
rather themselves? People should not be dying at the hands
of the police who are employed to protect the nation.
The wealth of this nation must benefit all its citizens, not
just few. Together we must work for equality and fair
distribution of resources if we are to close the gap between
rich and poor. Education, jobs and development are critical
areas of focus if we are to provide decent lives for all
people in South Africa.
We suggest that collective bargaining be used in line with
labour laws so that negotiations create a peaceful work
environment. This process must not be delayed but carefully
crafted to find a lasting solution involving the strikers.
Management must continue to talk to workers while they seek
trade union representation. Care must be taken that the
social ills that result from unacceptable living and working
conditions are addressed.
The recent study of the Bench Marks Foundation has predicted
the problems now seen at Marikana. If all the mining houses
had addressed the underlying causes of unrest and provided
both workers and local communities with the opportunity to
live a decent life, the killings could have been avoided.
Communities in the Platinum Minefields
Policy Gap 6
A Review of Platinum Mining in the Bojanala District of the
North West Province: A Participatory Action Research
The Bench Marks Foundation
The research was commissioned by the Bench Marks Foundation,
and was conducted by: David van Wyk, Mudjadji Trading (Pty)
Ltd in collaboration with the Bench Marks Centre for
Corporate Social Responsibility at the North-West
University, Potchefstroom Campus, and the Bench Marks
Community Monitoring School.
The Bench Marks Foundation, PO Box 62538, Marshalltown 2107
Johannesburg, South Africa, Tel/Fax: +27 11 832-1750
Tel: +27 11 832-1743/2, http://www.bench-marks.org.za
[Brief excerpts from report below. Direct link to pdf of
full report: http://tinyurl.com/98x6vyz]
Once again I am pleased to release this research study on
platinum mining in the North West Province in the Bojanala
District. In 2007 the Bench Marks Foundation released a
study on platinum mining in the North West Province
(Rustenburg) called the Policy Gap, hereinafter referred to
as Policy Gap 1, in which we made a number of
recommendations to Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum, Lonmin
and Xstrata on how to improve their social, economic and
environmental performance within the framework of corporate
In 2011, Policy Gap 1 was revisited to review whether there
had been any changes in the behavior of these corporations
with regards to communities, and whether the mining houses
had taken up any of the recommendations from the Bench Marks
Foundation. The recommendations were centered on reducing
the negative impacts on the environment, air and water
quality and dealt with land concerns, and creating
sustainable economic practices. Recommendations were further
made for the companies to deal with labour issues, the
living-out allowance, subcontracting and HIV and Aids, both
in the workplace and in the surrounding communities.
We start from the assumption that management and investors
will not voluntarily act in the interest of society and the
environment, and believe that this is a correct assumption.
We believe that the starting point of economic life begins
with communities, and so we want to know how those directly
impacted upon, benefit from mining.
To do our studies we use as our basis, the Principles for
Global Corporate Responsibility - Bench Marks for Measuring
Business Performance. The global Bench Marks Principles have
been formulated by a number of faith-based organisations and
non-governmental organisations from around the globe on what
civil society considers constitutes responsible business
behaviour. It is a tool which different organisations can
use to implement meaningful economic, social and
environmental sustainability. It is designed to help groups
to move from an articulation of values to a set of
principles, to concrete points of dialogue and to action.
Overarching principles the Bench Marks research instrument
- A sustainable system of production and distribution.
- Preservation of the broader and social environment for
present and future generations.
- A more equitable system for the distribution of economic
- Stakeholder participation, especially those most affected
and exploited by companies? operations.
- The promotion of life and freedom for all humanity.
This review was done with our Community Monitoring School,
and six organised communities participating in the research
process. The community monitors engaged with their
communities and collected information on various issues
affecting them. This was a pivotal part of the research, and
was also put together in a separate community report.
This study also involved our Bench Marks Centre for
Corporate Social Responsibility at the North-West
University, and the outcome we hope will assist not only
corporations to improve their social responsibility actions,
but also empower communities to engage with the mining
houses on a more level footing.
Overall, we have seen very little improvement in the
performance of the companies surveyed on corporate social
responsibility. What we have seen, is a large increase in
corporate advertising, large spreads in newspapers and
billboards stating how responsible mining is, in particular
by Anglo Platinum. Instead, all the companies reviewed here
should respond to community concerns over jobs, health care
and a safe and healthy environment.
Once again we have to report that all the companies
surveyed, although participating in the research, have
failed on a whole to meet the Principles for Global
Corporate Responsibility - Bench Marks for Measuring
Rt Rev Dr. Jo Seoka- Chairperson, the Bench Marks Foundation
The Bench Marks Foundation's aim is to change corporate
behaviour towards responsible business conduct â conduct
that benefits communities and enhances the overall wellbeing
of those most negatively impacted upon. We have a particular
concern with how women are impacted upon and how mining
contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS. Women suffer
livelihood losses, marginalisation and loss of identity and
both directly and indirectly bear the consequences of mining
We still cannot see how mining communities benefit. Yet we
read these mining houses' sustainability reports and see
they talk of building clinics and schools, but these
projects seem to make little difference to the impacts on
communities' wellbeing. Mines seem not to care about water
impacts that cause health and livelihood problems, air
quality issues that lead to respiratory problems or the
overall development of communities on whose land they
We note all the talk in company sustainability reports to
society that project these companies as being exemplary in
their operations. What we realise is that for the mining
companies surveyed their Corporate Social Responsibility is
more strategic interventions to look good. This is based on
how they want the public and investors to perceive them. But
behind this is their private image, one of pursuing profits
more often than not at a cost to other people, mainly
communities nearby or downstream. We focus on the
experienced reality of communities and find that what the
mining houses in Bojanala District in the North West
Province say on paper does not really translate into
meaningful practices by the said corporations.
We hope that the mining corporations under review will
dissect this study to improve how they conduct their
business operations and engage with the Bench Marks
Foundation and communities on the research findings. We also
hope that decision makers, the South African government,
ethical investors and think-tank organisations will use the
findings to ensure mining is done more responsibly.
We need to be aware of the win-win solution propagated by
many, when in fact we have winners and losers, and the
losers, communities and specifically women tend to carry the
costs of mining that are externalised onto them.
I can only hope that this report will shake up the mining
industry and that the issues raised will be on every mining
John Capel - Executive Director
Bench Marks Foundation
In 2007 the Bench Marks Foundation published Policy Gap 1,
looking at the impacts on local communities from platinum
mining in the North West province. The findings showed that
despite the great value extracted from platinum mining,
there are harmful social, economic and environmental impacts
on local communities, and the mining companies have yet to
assume their responsibility for the negative consequences of
their mining activities. This report revisits the initial
one to look at what changes have taken place, and further
aims to investigate the perceptions that local communities
have of mining companies to evaluate the corporate
personalities of these companies. In order to increase the
participation of local communities, participatory action
research was chosen as a methodology.
The corporations surveyed in Policy Gap 6 include Anglo
Platinum, Impala Platinum, Lonmin, Xstrata, Aquarius and
Royal Bafokeng Platinum Limited. Although they all have
corporate social responsibility programmes in place, the
overall findings of this study show that they all fail to
meet the standards of the Principles for Global Corporate
Responsibility - Bench Marks for Measuring Business
For Anglo Platinum, the study finds that despite making
headways in achieving the goals set by the MPRDA related to
the employment of historically disadvantaged South Africans
(HDSAs), the employment of women and increasing HDSA
procurement, significant challenges remain. While it is
positive that Anglo Platinum has improved the number of
HSDAs in management positions, the company still needs to do
a lot more for its employment profile to be reflective of
South African demographics. The increase in the number of
employed women is also positive, but must be accompanied by
a transformation of the workplace culture to accommodate
female workers and provide them with a safe working
environment. The study also expresses concerns around Anglo
Platinum?s two CSR-projects to provide employees with houses
and for communities to buy shares in Anglo Platinum.
When it comes to environmental impacts, Anglo Platinum
itself admits to exceeding permitted emission levels of
sulphur dioxide (SO2) and harmful impacts on water resources
in the area. The Bench Marks Foundation is concerned that
the corporation reports only a 63% compliance with 688
conditions requiring legal compliance. Anglo Platinum must
take immediate steps to comply with legal requirements and
set emission limits.
The main issues concerning Impala Platinum (Implat) include
high levels of fatalities at its operations, extensive use
of sub-contracted labour, and damaging environmental
impacts. The levels of fatalities are unacceptably high, and
must be seen in connection with the push for cost
containment, the use of subcontracting and the low levels of
worker literacy. Impala Platinum has increased the number of
sub-contractors it employs, and subcontracted labour is
often poorly paid and poorly accommodated. Further, the lack
of employment opportunities given to local youth is creating
tension with the surrounding communities. Impala Platinum
should further show greater concern for public safety in the
communities surrounding the mine, by immediately setting up
proper booms and bridges at the rail crossings that are now
In terms of environmental impacts, emission levels of SO2
and CO2 are too high at Impala Platinum's Rustenburg
operations. For CO2 emissions, the Rustenburg operations
account for over 70% of all of Implat's CO2 emissions. This
means that the communities of the Bojanala District are
bearing the heaviest burden of air pollution of all of
Implat?s operations in Southern Africa.
Regarding Lonmin's operations some of the key problems
highlighted by the report include a high level of
fatalities, very poor living conditions for workers,
community demands for employment opportunities and the
impacts of mining on commercial farming in the area. Almost
a third of Lonmin?s workforce is contracted labour, and
community demands for employment have lead to protests and
unrest. The company was also in a union dispute, after which
Lonmin dismissed 9 000 workers at the Marikana operations.
Commercial farming in the Marikana area has been negatively
impacted upon by the mining activities here. As the mines
buy more land, the farms that remain become isolated, and
suffer under the environmental impacts of mining on the
quality of the water sources in the area.
One of the key challenges when assessing Xstrata's CSRprogrammes
is that the company?s sustainable development
report covers all its operations across the world, without
breaking down the report to specific country levels. This
makes it very difficult to obtain a clear picture of
Xstrata?s CSR programme in the Bojanala District of the
North West Province specifically.
However, some major concerns were raised by local
communities regarding how Xstrata deals with HIV/AIDS and
local employment. In February 2011 the National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM) alleged that Xstrata was firing workers on
the grounds of their HIV/AIDS status from one of its South
African collieries. This is despite Xstrata's claims of
providing extensive HIV/AIDS programmes for its workers.
This incident led to Xstrata employees fearing to be tested
and treated at the mine's health facilities, and instead
going to government facilities. These government facilities
have then become overstrained, leading to tensions with
local residents over access to health facilities.
Another source of tension between the local community and
Xstrata is the perception among local residents that Xstrata
is heavily reliant on contract workers from outside the
local communities. This is despite Xstrata?s claim to employ
most of its workforce locally.
Policy Gap 1 in 2007 found poor environmental management of
water and waste behind Xstrata's operations, but the current
report shows a significant improvement on this point.
For Aquarius the issue of local employment is also a source
of tension with the local communities. Aquarius claims to
have a minimum of 51% employed from the local communities,
defined as people living within 50km radius of the mine?s
operations. However, such a definition includes migrant
labourers who are living in local communities, and so
continues to be a source of tension. Further, Aquarius has a
very heavy reliance on sub-contracting, employing 9 434
workers as subcontracted labour out of a total of 11 072
employees. The living-out allowance given to workers is
linked to increases in informal settlements, a problem
raised in the report in relation to most of the companies
surveyed. Finally, the report highlighted some of the
problematic issues relating to Savannah Resources
Consortium?s shares in Aquarius, given the links of this BEE
consortium to people with high-level political connections.
Royal Bafokeng Platinum Limited is the final company
surveyed in Policy Gap 6. One of the key issues raised,
especially in Luka and Chaneng, is the contested ownership
of land. The Bafokeng Land Buyers Association was
established to contest the claim of the Royal Bafokeng
Authority that all the land was purchased by it as a single
entity. Not only are the people of Chaneng contesting the
land question, but they are also demanding a 30% ownership
state in the Styldrift mine as compensation for having given
up their land for its development. More tension is created
by the lack of employment opportunities for local youth, as
workers are sourced from outside of the local communities.
Another issue that can lead to increased tension with the
surrounding communities is the illegal desecration of graves
in the prospecting for the new Styldrift mine.
In conclusion, the companies surveyed in Policy Gap 6 have a
long way to go to deal with the negative impacts of their
operations on local communities in the Bojanala District and
to meet the standards of the Principles for Global Corporate
Responsibility - Bench Marks for Measuring Business
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