Department of Mineral Resources responses to MP questions; Mine Health and Safety Council on its 2015/16 Annual Performance Plan

This premium content has been made freely available

Mineral Resources and Energy

15 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr S Luzipho (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Chairperson opened the meeting by expressing concern and condemning the recent acts of violence against foreigners in the country. He said the mining industry had benefitted from the exploits of fellow Africans. South Africa as a country could not exist as a country without other African countries and pretty soon South Africans might find it difficult to visit neighbouring countries.

DMR presented a follow up briefing following its Annual Performance Plan presentation on 18 March 2015. DMR had been requested to brief the Committee on technical regulations for oil and gas, progress in illegal mining, rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines, the women in mining strategy, mining charter assessments, legislative roadmap for mineral resources, commemoration for ex-mineworkers, SAMRAD cadastral system, learner safety inspector programme and environmental inspector’s mineral regulations.

Shale gas exploration draft technical regulations had been compiled and published and a communication strategy had been developed and presented to the relevant Cabinet Committee. However the regulations needed to be strengthened in terms of water and environmental issues as well as the astronomy programme. On illegal mining, DMR had taken several measures to curb this. Legal mining was being promoted and 141 identified open shafts had been sealed or closed. The Mine and Safety Council was looking at effective methodologies to seal mines to eradicate illegal mining. In addition law enforcement and forensic analysis were playing a critical role in addressing the problem of illegal mining. Gold worth R53 million had been confiscated from illegal miners between September and December 2014.

It was estimated that R47.1 billion would be required for the rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines. Members questioned why taxpayers had to bear the cost for the rehabilitation process. Members were of the view that mining licences were issued to those with political connections. As such, mining companies were not concerned about responsible mining for sustainability.

The South African mining industry was still male dominated however a strategy had been developed to ensure the meaningful participation of women in mining. However there was still a long way to go before 50/50 realisation.

The Mine Health and Safety Council presented its 2015/16 - 2019/20 Strategic Plan and budget. The Plan dealt with initiatives for mine health and safety. The MHSC had developed new summit milestones in collaboration with stakeholders which had been approved by all principals. Each milestone had clear initiatives, action plans and implementation of crucial activities such as adoption of best practices and implementation of research outcomes.

The new milestones included elimination of fatalities and injuries by setting a target of zero fatalities for every mining company by December 2020. By December 2016, there should be a 20% reduction in serious injuries per year. Induced hearing loss was a major problem and the new summit milestone addressed this by ensuring a reduction of operational noise to 107 dB (A) by 2016.

Members were dissatisfied with the strategic plan as it was inconsistent with the budget. The Committee was also not satisfied with the budget as it was not clear as some of the Council’s programmes were grouped under one umbrella of research. As such, the Committee was unable to fully determine how much money would be spent on programmes which corresponded to the Council’s mandate. The Council was advised to revisit its strategic plan and align it with the budget as well as take into consideration what National Treasury had presented to the Committee about the Council’s budget allocation. The Council should provide the revised budget by 24 April 2015.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Introductory Comments
The Chairperson said the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources members were ashamed to be South Africans in Africa in light of the xenophobic incidents that were occurring. Such acts were condemned by the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources because mining resources in the South African economy are the result of the exploits of fellow Africans. Mineral resources were leaving the soil today because fellow Africans had made sacrifices and contributed to what the South African economy was today. He was sure that the Committee would commit itself to ensure that such actions were dealt with the utmost decisiveness.  There cannot be any justification for what was happening except to say this was one of the worst things that South Africa could demonstrate. Quite soon South Africans would find it difficult to visit neighbouring countries because of the conduct of some individuals who decide to do as they wish. It was hoped soon South Africa would stand up and defend Africa as it was not possible to be a country without the continent.

He reminded members that at the Committee’s meeting held on 18 March 2015 there were outstanding questions. These had been forwarded to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to prepare responses. 

The Chairperson pointed out that there were too many apologies for an upcoming meeting on Friday 17 April 2015. It was not good to engage with a couple of members only as the discussions might be affected with limited information particularly if members present were absent in the previous meeting.

Department of Mineral Resources response to questions on its Annual Performance Plan
Dr Thibedi Ramontja, DMR Director General, noted that the DMR Annual Performance Plan (APP) had already been presented to the Committee. The entities were yet to present annual plans to the Committee and these were: MINTEK, Council for Geoscience, South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator, State Diamond Trader, Mining and Health Safety Council.

There were outstanding questions from the previous presentation. These were:
- Technical regulations for oil and gas
- Progress in illegal mining which emerged out of the Committee’s oversight  visit to some illegal mining sites in Gauteng
- Rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines
- Women in mining strategy
- Mining Charter assessments
- Legislative roadmap for mineral resources
- Commemoration for ex-mine workers
- SAMRAD-cadastral system for  licensing
- Learner inspector programme-Mine Health and Safety
- Environmental inspectors- Mineral Regulations.

Shale gas draft technical regulations had been compiled and published. Thereafter a communication strategy had been developed and presented to the Cabinet committee of ministers. At the meeting it was indicated that the communication strategy needed to be strengthened.  Subsequently the strategy was reviewed and strengthened. The critical issues that needed to be strengthened pertained to technical regulations. There were three issues that needed to be addressed: water issues, environmental issues and the third critical area needing to be strengthened was the approach to technical regulations concerning the astronomy programme. It was assumed the programme would co-exist with the shale gas programme. The technical regulations had now moved from emphasising co-existence to focusing on the protection of the astronomy programme. Focus was also on the protection of the regulations which would now form part of the communication strategy.

The responses to illegal mining had been grouped into five focus areas. Firstly the promotion of legitimate mining and sealing of holes in Gauteng area as that was where illegal mining was rampant. DMR was promoting legitimate mining and removing exposed minerals. A mining permit was issued to conduct mining operations in the East Rand and mining operations had commenced in the area.  In addition the outcrop and sub-crop was mined successfully in Riverlea and Roodeport areas. In addition the DMR was sealing holes to prevent illegal miners from accessing holes. Already 141 open shafts and holes had been sealed in partnership with the Council of Geoscience (CGS) as well as in collaboration with various companies.  The Mine and Health Safety Council would be conducting research to identify more sustainable ways for sealing holes as the current methods were not effective. In addition there was sharing of information about current effective sealing methodology through the Provincial Illegal Mining Forums.

Secondly law enforcement and forensic analysis was playing a role in curbing illegal mining. SAPS was playing a major role with the use of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in conducting forensic analysis on gold bearing materials samples and generates a finger print database of samples. The Committee had requested the DMR to involve CGS with fingerprinting of samples and discussions had been held. At the moment CGS did not have the equipment required to undertake the finger printing process. Mintek would be acquiring specialised laboratory equipment to assist SAPS and CGS. DMR would be submitting proposals for funds to National Treasury in the June/July 2015 MTEF round. The funds were for enhancing laboratory equipment for CGS and Mintek. The equipment would be critical in terms of skills development and the Department of Science and Technology ought to be involved as the process entails research matters. In addition the CGS Amendment Act in respect of geohazards was yet to be implemented due to CGS financial constraints. The South African Precious Metals and Diamond Regulator conducts inspections at new and existing diamond and precious metals business premises to ensure legal compliance by licence holders.

Other law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) also help in disruptive operations which are ongoing. Recently the Police seized gold worth an estimated R20 million following coordinated raids on several properties in Ekurhuleni, the Johannesburg CBD and Limpopo. This was in addition to the seizure of gold worth R53 million during the period of September to December 2014.

Dr Ramontja said six cases involving crime syndicates were at a prosecutorial phase. This was initiated by Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). In addition 150 illegal miners were arrested and 27 employees were also arrested for assisting the miners.

Thirdly there was a legislation review which also included consultations with traditional leaders. The DMR approached the State Law Adviser and was advised to consider enhancing the legislative framework regarding illegal mining. The advice would be included in the law once the MPRDA was referred back for consideration. Consultations were currently underway and the reviewed MPRDA aimed to further strengthen consultations with communities regarding mining licensing. The MPRDA would also be forwarded to the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) to address concerns of the traditional leaders. In addition a Legislative Task Team had been established by the National Coordination Strategic Management Team (NCSMT) to ensure effective prosecution and imposition of tougher sentences for those found guilty of illegal mining.

Fourthly the Department of Home Affairs had a leading role in dealing with Immigration Laws. A workshop had been convened with other relevant Departments and the DHA provided information on immigration laws. One of Government’s priorities had also been driving the process of establishing the Border Management Agency (BMA) to deal with cross border crimes, illegal migration and all security threats emanating from the border environment.

Finally, training was very important especially in respect of SAPS which had a number of training programmes in dealing with illegal mining. One of the programmes is visible policing which is done in consultation with all relevant parties. Detectives had been drafted for all police units and detectives already at units were being trained on how to deal with illegal mining related cases.  In-house awareness campaigns on the subject of illegal mining were being conducted under SAPS visible policing programme.

On the rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines, Dr Ramontja said the DMR, on an annual basis, embarks on assessment of derelict and ownerless mines liability. The DMR appoint an actuarial scientist to undertake the assessment.  The 2013/14 report reflected that the total estimated present value of the closure costs was R47.1 billion of which R2.1 billion was for asbestos mines. A 2014/15 report would be concluded post closure of the financial year and a report would be ready by 31 May 2015 and would be presented to the Auditor General for auditing.

In terms of the plans for women in mining strategy, some inputs had been incorporated in the strategy that was being developed and the DMR was confident that by the end of July 2015, the final strategy would be available. More importantly a situational analysis had been carried out and it revealed that the number of women in the industry had increased steadily from 2009 to 2014. Currently 42 048 women were employed in the mining sector. However, there was still more to be done to empower women in the industry considering the large number of workers employed in the mining sector alone.

On the reporting requirements inscribed in the mining charter, the reporting tool for 2014 progress on implementation of this transformation was 31 March 2015. DMR had engaged with stakeholders in the process of assessing compliance with the charter. The process with stakeholders was undertaken through the Mining Industry Growth Development and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT) process where tripartite stakeholders were consulted. A technical committee was put together to create a forum of consultation and DMR had an opportunity to understand issues of importance in the mining industry. DMR had been able to develop a web based IT system for collecting data which was a first in the department. The system had assisted a lot in collecting information. However some rights holders did not participate in the MIGDETT process and they made submissions on 31 March 2015; as such only interim results could be released in this regard. All information had now been collected and a final report on compliance with the charter would be released at the end of April 2015.

The 2015 DMR Legislative Road Map includes the MPRDA Amendment Bill 2013 which had been referred back to parliament for further consideration. The DMR was ready to provide necessary technical support to parliament in processing the Bill during this financial year.

Another item on the legislative roadmap was the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2015 which DMR intended to introduce. The Bill had been sent to NEDLAC for consideration, the bill would be submitted to parliament once the deliberations were finalised at NEDLAC.

Also the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC) Bill 2015 would be introduced. The Bill had been pre-certified by the State Law Advisors and would be submitted to cabinet for approval then to clusters for consideration and thereafter submitted to parliament.

Dr Ramontja said the DMR had a programme which was intended to commemorate ex-mineworkers. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had brought to the DMR’s attention the existence of unknown mine workers graveyards. A task team involving new mine owners had been established to implement several tasks to ensure these ex-mine workers were commemorated. The tasks were to be completed by December 2015.

DMR and the tripartite stakeholders had initiated a programme to commemorate ex-mine workers who died in mine disasters and where necessary decent monuments would be erected. This would be done in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture the Heritage Council.

Dr Ramontja said a detailed presentation on the South African Mineral Resources Administration System (SAMRAD) [] had been presented to the Committee already. SAMRAD was a cadastral system used in licensing of mining rights. Prior to adoption of the system officials went to Canada and Australia to look at the electronic systems and the outcomes were used to inform the format of SAMRAD. A detailed action plan was in place and had already been presented to members. There were challenges when the system was being implemented. The system had come a long way and had improved considerably. A major improvement was in February 2015 which had changed the face of SAMRAD from what it was as users had struggled to use the system along with a number of other things. The system was upgraded and was working. More importantly the system was monitored and the DMR strives to ensure 95% availability.  Queries from public were logged and addressed on a daily basis. In most cases the queries were able to be resolved.

There was an internal steering committee in DMR which monitors implementation of all ICT projects in the department. Periodic meetings of super users were convened on a quarterly basis for monitoring and continuous training of officials. This was to enhance performance and ensure the system remained one of the best.

The learner inspector programme had been embarked on in collaboration with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA). Every year DMR ensured that fifty unemployed graduates (in mine surveying, occupational hygiene, electrical mining and mechanical engineering) from previously disadvantaged groups were placed at different mines to undergo a two year experiential training. The training would assist the unemployed graduates to pass the Government Certificate of Competency (GCC) examinations. On completion of the GCC examinations chances of possible employment at mines for the graduates were enhanced.

The environmental inspectors programme was aimed at creating skills capacity to augment the existing skills. Especially since the implementation of the integrated system for authorisation of mine [….. inaudible], environmental authorisation and water authorisation. These areas should be focused on and already 102 Mine Environmental Management officials had undergone training in areas of Air Quality Management, Waste Management, Basic Environmental Impact Assessment and Biodiversity in Mining amongst others. This was an efficient way to empower personnel. Furthermore thirty officials underwent an Environmental Mineral Resource Inspector (EMRI) course at the University of Pretoria and training was completed at the end of January 2015. Sixty officials were expected to undergo the EMRI training. It was planned that all Environmental Management officials should be trained in the programme to ensure successful implementation of the integrated licensing system before the end of 2016.

Dr Ramontja concluded that DMR would continue to implement the programmes as outlined in the APP and the strategy. The programmes were to promote the mining industry in South Africa to create jobs and ensure economic development in respect of mining. In addition the programmes were to ensure regulation of the industry so that people worked in a safe environment and adhere to the regulatory requirements.

The programmes would be implemented continuously, forging partnerships with State Owned Entities as they are part of an important implementation strategy for various programmes. The DMR would continue working with tripartite stakeholders using forums such as MIGDETT and other structures to discuss issues and develop ideas to take forward the mining industry.

DMR valued the Committee’s advice and would be available to share progress on DMR’s programmes with the Committee.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) asked whether the Shale Gas Regulations would be ready before August. He asked for clarity as to which areas had been mined successfully for outcrop and sub-outcrop at Riverlea and also who mined the outcrop? DMR said that it got advice from State Law Advisers in terms of possible legislative changes to ease the task of law enforcement against illegal mining. He asked for the Committee to be furnished with the advice from the State Laws Adviser.

Mr Lorimer was not sure whether this question should be addressed to the Chairperson or the department - he asked where the Committee stood with regards to MPRD Bill as it was not on the Committee’s programme. He asked the department to give a briefing on this Bill’s progress and when would it be referred back to the Committee.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) asked for the age differences of women involved in mining. He asked why the department ensured that the SAMRAD system was 95% available - why not at 100%?

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked how the department ensured that sealed holes were not reopened as there was a problem of reopening rehabilitated sealed holes. She asked if there was still conflict between the illegal miners and those who had been given permission to remove minerals. When the Committee had gone on an oversight visit to some of the derelict mines, it was informed about persistent fighting with illegal miners.

Ms Mafolo asked whether the allegations that police officers assisting illegal miners were founded or not? Were the women in mining employed in senior positions and what were the percentages? What was the criterion used to enrol unemployed youths into the learner inspector programme? Also how did the department ensure retention of those who had undergone the programme?

Mr S Mbatha (EFF) said if he was not mistaken the country had been mining for 200 years. In his view the law on how to deal with geohazards should not be this slow. He assumed that as a department it was legally preparing for now and the future to ensure communities, businesses and society were protected.  Other mining countries that had been mining for a shorter time than South Africa were well prepared in dealing with geohazards and had anticipated for the future as well. He asked if this was an area that would be left hanging. If that was the case he was concerned because the world of mining today favours conservative, responsible and sustainable mining in favour of communities.

Mr J Esterhuizen (IFP) noted that he did not attend the previous meeting because of involvement with three other committees. He asked if the department was stating the facts when conducting awareness campaigns. South Africa was ranked the 21st driest country in the world. It took 19 million litres of water for every high pressure injection. What would be the environmental impact of doing such an operation in the Karoo for instance where hundreds if not thousands of tankers would be required to take water to the Karoo. This information should be transparent in the public awareness campaigns.

On illegal mining and sealing of holes, Mr Esterhuizen said it seemed that one had to be politically well connected in order to be given a mining licence. Unfortunately because of these political connections, mining operations are simply stopped anyhow with disregard to the proper processes for stopping operations.

On the deep mining, people still made money. As such, would not it be economically viable to just continue with the mining as it still seemed to be profitable?

Mr Esterhuizen said that for a period of four months gold worth R53 million which was coming to around R13 million a month was mined by illegal miners. This brought him back to his earlier question about the mining operations still being viable. Perhaps it was too easy to get the licences and easier to simply stop whenever the gold price dropped.

He added that illegal mining was not just restricted to deep mining but to open mining as well. If one flew over Mpumalanga it looked like a giant had dug up holes. It was not good to just fill up the holes, what about the communities that live in the surrounding areas? How was the community involved in the mining in the first place? Were foreigners brought in to work in the mines and then just taken away when mining stopped?

On the rehabilitation of ownerless mines, why was interest on the state to just close the mines again. Companies which got mining contracts must have conditions built into the contracts and regulations about the proper closure of these mines so that as taxpayers should not have to pay the R7.1 billion to close these mines.

Mr Esterhuizen said the Fraser Institute of Mining conducted a survey of mining companies and gave ratings for countries which were best for mining activities and most economical for mining operations. South Africa dropped from 18 to 44 out of 73 countries. Who was accountable for the fall in ratings as it did not look good for South Africa?

The Chairperson said he did not want to sound as if he was limiting members in asking questions however some of the questions might not be related to the matter. Nonetheless the department would respond to these questions. He reminded members that the Committee was dealing with the APP, the department’s strategic objectives as well as the budget.

The Chairperson said the Mining Charter, in terms of the department’s interim release and actual release, was a programme that was supposed to measure performance. The release would be made available at the end of April. It would be very difficult for the Committee to give a rating as there was no reference point for the rating. Unfortunately the Committee had never had a briefing on the Mining Charter. It was difficult to get a sense of what would assist the Committee to make an informed determination as to whether the department had been successful or not. If there was non-compliance what were the consequences and what would be the next step. If the next step was to re-introduce another charter, how would it be measured? Rather what did DMR intend to re-introduce in the future as the time frame for the existing charter had expired?

The Committee was supposed to deal with legislative processes. He was not contesting the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill, but it would be better if legislation matters were initiated by the Committee. He did not want the Committee to rubber stamp what might have been agreed at NEDLAC. The Committee should make the proposals. The way NEDLAC resolved disputes was different to dispute resolutions made at parliamentary level. Perhaps the department could provide some clarity on the procedures on how to go about it.

The issue of women in mining strategy had been around since 2012/2013. The department’s last meeting with the Committee was before the end of March. At that meeting the Committee was informed that information about the women in mining strategy would be made available by 31 March 2015.  The information was still not yet available. Could the department guarantee that this information would really be available by 31 July 2015? What was the problem? Perhaps the women in the department were not pushing hard enough for the empowerment of women in mining. Perhaps the process was being led by men who were not treating the issue with urgency. The Committee would also like to see the strategy. He did not want to ask who was leading in developing the strategy as sometimes a woman would seem to be leading but in the end only reflect the desires of a man.

SAMRAD should perhaps be revisited because the Committee had raised fundamental questions. It was not just a question of logging applications. The response given in the last meeting was good but only answered half of what was asked. A simple question was asked as to how many applications were logged. The response was about 16 000. A follow-up question was why were there not 16 000 multi-millionaires in South Africa. The Committee asked for clarity as to how many of the applications were successful, how many successful applications were South African and of the successful South African applications, how many were from previously disadvantaged groups. The Committee also asked how many successful applicants still owned their mining rights as many people were not interested in applying for rights and preferred to buy these.

The Chairman asked whether the commemoration programme was included in the budget or was the department going to utilise discretionary funds or would various stakeholders contribute.  The APP should be consistent with the budget.

Dr Ramontja assured the Committee that Shale Gas regulations would be available in August. The regulations would be discussed by an inter-ministerial committee and would be going to cabinet. The department completed factoring in all concerns. This would actually address Mr Esterhuizen’s question about the awareness campaign strategy. People would be informed about the environmental issues relating to Shale Gas; that was why a lot of time was spent putting the regulations together. The regulations were focusing on three key areas. DMR had to ensure that issues relating to water were addressed. This was critical thing as the Karoo had water challenges. The technical regulations would also address issues of the environment and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). It was believed the regulations were an extremely good document. DMR officials had gone to the USA and reviewed other jurisdictions on how such things were done. A draft document had already been published and has so far had received great reviews. People will be informed of how the department will ensure that Shale Gas development was undertaken in a responsible manner.

Mr David Msiza, Chief Inspector of Mines, DMR, said that Central Rand Gold was the company mining the outcrop. So far about ten kilometres of outcrop had been mined from Florida to FMB. As a way of ensuring that sealed holes were not re-opened and prevent illegal mining, MSHC was looking at more effective sealing methodologies as well as working with CGS as indicated earlier. There were mines which had effective sealing methodologies and the Safety Council was sharing with them in terms of what measures could be done for non-operating mines. For operating mines, the Safety Council was working with companies and other stakeholders to enhance security measures by using facial or finger biometric systems. Also space for movement in mines was reduced so that only one person can move at a time unlike in the past where it was possible to move two people.

Illegal miners were becoming more brazen and fighting back. As such there was still conflict between licence holders and illegal miners.  Measures were being put in place to curb illegal mining. The police were becoming more involved and carrying out operations to arrest syndicates of illegal miners. Operating mines were also strengthening security measures. Illegal miners were fighting each other especially those coming from the same place. The modus operandi for illegal miners was also changing by constantly moving. Recently it was reported that about seventy illegal miners attacked operating mines. There was confidence in the abilities of the police and other law enforcement agencies to overcome the vice.

The police were taking action against corrupt officers. Substantial arrests had been made in the Free State in the past year. The criteria used for selecting people in the Learner Programme were specialisation subjects i.e. engineering, occupational hygiene and surveying, location, gender. The programme also considered university graduates without work experience.

Mining was promoted in areas that were economically viable and mining was taking place. In Gauteng from the East rand to the West rand mining was mainly taking place in defunct operations.  These were shallow operations which had been sealed before and just required digging. These operations were taken to one of the outcrops hoping to hit underground workings so that operations could go underground. In the Free State what used to happen was operations would just go underground in the operating mines.

Dr Ramontja said the State Law Advisers had looked at various pieces of legislation and had advised that the best option was to strengthen the MPRDA.

The Chairperson asked the DG if he was going to respond to the question about why the state was taking responsibility for derelict and ownerless mines. Were there no people who had been operating the mines before? This was the R7.1 billion that Mr Esterhuizen was talking about and it was linked to mining health and safety.

Dr Ramontja replied that DMR was dealing with the historic issues whereby there was no legislative framework which governed what is known as the ‘polluter pays’ principle. The MRPDA together with [inaudible] were guided by the ‘polluter pays’ principle. However, the law could not be applied retrospectively as these were activities which took place in the country when there was no legislation in place. However, in some instances if there were individuals who applied to mine a particular derelict mine, they would have to take responsibility. Those mines were then removed from the database as derelict and ownerless mines.

An analysis of women in mining and positions held would be done very soon and the information would be provided to the Committee. Certainly there was still much to be done to address women empowerment as shown in the data presented. There was still a long way to go to realise a 50/50 representation in mining. Systems must be put in place to address the matter which focuses on training of women and ensuring women get opportunities in the mining industry. Across the sector, the research environment should be looked at. The department and all its institutions would also be focusing on developing women in the mining sector. The strategy would be ready and be presented to the Committee in July 2015.

He said the learnership programme was open to any person and people in the rural areas were also encouraged to apply. The department promoted its programmes wherever it went and in associated institutions.  A corporate services team was in place to manage and promote bursaries and scholarships available from the department and other institutions.

On the Geoscience Amendment Act, Dr Ramontja replied that government was acting to ensure sustainability in the mining sector in terms of dolomitic land. The Council for Geoscience worked very closely with municipalities in providing advice when dealing with dolomitic land. The amendments were intended to give the Council for Geoscience more power to strengthen legislation in dealing with geohazards. Furthermore if an individual was interested in developing on mined land the department provides guidance as it did not allow development on areas that had been mined.

Dr Ramontja said Shale Gas would be developed in a responsible manner guided by a regulatory framework.

In response to open holes in Mpumalanga, Dr Ramontja said communities were involved when closing holes. In Gauteng, communities were invited and community involvement was part of the programme. Pamphlets were distributed to get the communities involved and own the project.  The department had programmes aimed at dealing with illegal mining activities holistically. In Mpumalanga illegal mining in the gold mines had been addressed quite successfully.

In response to the question about rankings by the Fraser Institute, one of the key drivers in ensuring that there was a good world class cadastral system was to ensure that the issue of investment into the country was addressed. Upgrading SAMRAD was making it easier for people and investors to apply. Applications could be made from anywhere. So far the upgrades made in February were making a significant difference as there was an improvement in investors who were looking at South Africa through the cadastral system.

In relation to the Mining Charter one of the biggest achievements was ensuring the development of a web based system. From now onwards assessing compliance with the charter would be quite easy. The Minister had already indicated that the Charter results would be available by the end of April. It was being finalised and had incorporated information which was logged between the 29 and 30 March 2015. There were quiet a number of mines which had logged information on the said dates.

Dr Ramontja said despite having a 95% availability target on SAMRAD, the department was ensuring that the system was available at all times. A few challenges had been experienced as the department had partnerships with other institutions. At times the department has had to look at the maintenance of the system. He assured the Committee that the system and availability was quite high at around 98-99%. Availability goes down when the system was being maintained.

About the 16 000 applications for mining rights and the number still holding the rights, the Chairperson interjected that perhaps the question would be in matters outstanding and not arising.

Dr Ramontja did not think the application process for mining rights was politically connected. The application process was transparent and open to everyone in addition it was on a first come basis. As such, one did not need to be politically connected to acquire mining rights. In additional there were legal processes which could be followed if one was aggrieved.

Closure of mines was based on economic factors. The mining industry was cyclical with constant fluctuations in commodity prices. When prices fell it was sometimes not economical to continue mining. That was why some mines were closed. This was not unique to South Africa as it also happened in other mining countries.

The Chairperson invited members for follow up questions.

Mr Esterhuizen said mining was the bedrock of the South African economy and mineral prices were dropping. The lowest drop in prices was in August 2002 and current prices were nearly there. The mining industry, DMR and all mining facilitated groups paid more than R100 million for consultants and advisers companies so if contracts without regulations and certain conditions were drawn up, why should the tax payers pay R47.1 billion for the proper closure of the mines. The historical argument did not carry water with him. Members were aware of the drawing up of a sustainable mining framework; however why were mining communities not involved in the negotiations. In some cases communities were excluded and not invited to meetings. Where mining takes place, communities were affected yet they were not included in the decision making process.

Mr Lorimer said he had sent someone in Durban Deep to have a look at a processing facility where there were about twenty gems tables crushing illegally mined rock. There were more than 100 people mining illegally. This was demonstrating the extent of the problem with illegal mining and how the department was not getting to grips in dealing with it.

A point of information with regards to Mr Esterhuizen’s question on the rankings by the Fraser Institute, the latest report is for 2013/2014 and the number of mining jurisdictions surveyed had been raised to 174. Currently South Africa was ranked 64th and was beaten by ten other African countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Morocco, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and DRC.

Mr Matlala said that in as much as he wanted an answer from the department on the age gap of women in mining, but if this information was not available, it would be better not to respond than manufacturing an answer.

Mr Ramontja responded to the concern raised by Mr Esterhuizen as to why government had to rehabilitate derelict mines. He said South Africa had been mining for over a hundred years and it was a fact that in the past there were no laws or regulations for mining activities. The current government was the government which came up with laws to address the problem. The Polluter Pays Principle was absent in the past. The department would prioritise sites which were dangerous to the public. For instance asbestos was no longer mined, but mines from past asbestos mining prior to the democratic government, were still present and the government must address these as it was a safety hazard.

In terms of the MRPDA communities had to be consulted and what was important was that the amended MRPDA was strengthening and ensuring effective community consultation.

Mr Ramontja replied that there was a need for critical investment in the mining sector which would help with ranking in the Fraser report. As such the Council for Geoscience had been given additional funding to gather quality geo scientific information which would help with attracting investors. Currently the Council for Geoscience was embarking on upgrading of geoscience infrastructure of the country. In the past geophysical surveying was done flying at a line spacing of nine kilometres now line spacing was done at 200 metres. The programme in addition to the upgraded SAMRAD would address the issue of attracting investors. There was a need to have good systems in place but quality geo-scientific information was also required. A geophysical survey would be conducted soon in the Northern Cape. Also important was Mintek being funded to ensure issues of mineral processing were enhanced in order to attract more investors.

Currently there were no statistics available at DMR on the age gap of women in mining because information was only collected on the number of women employed, number of employees employed and production in respect of mines. The department would have to look at ways to acquire the information.

Mr Msiza replied that he agreed with Mr Lorimer that the department was not where it wanted to be as the ultimate goal was to eradicate illegal mining operations. Given the complex phenomenon of what was involved not only in South Africa and neighbouring countries but globally, the department would have to ensure that all necessary measures were taken to eradicate illegal mining. An advantage in the South African context is that it was difficult for illegal miners to go underground in mines that were not operational. Safety was of utmost importance for the department because some people have lost their lives. Measures taken by SAPS and the department in conjunction with CGS have led to changes in the modus operand of illegal miners. More people are working on the surface and around Gauteng more people were digging at the big dumps rather than going underground. Another phenomenon that was emerging was illegal miners were killing each other. A person would unfortunately be killed at a site far from where they were digging in order to stop the department from sealing the mine. As the department continually worked together with all stakeholders including government law enforcement agencies and refined the legislative framework, ultimately illegal mining would be curbed.

More importantly SAPS was arresting criminal syndicates which was limiting the fuelling of illegal mining phenomenon. As the department continued implementing the measures identified and responding to the challenges, then the problem could be overcome.

The Chairperson asked members if they could agree that out of what had been presented there was a need to tease out issues that would remain for the Committee’s current term. One of the items which had a lot of debate was about the processes and methodologies for attracting investors. There were other issues as well but the Committee would have to decide on what would constitute the discussion to avoid discussing general investment.

He said if members were to recall a report prepared by Mr Lorimer that called for a much more intensive discussion in dealing with illegal mining in the country. Clearly it was one of the most insurmountable tasks that the country had to deal with including the dangers to the community.

The Chairperson was worried that the department was giving the Committee projections. What was budgeted was far less than what was presented. The estimated cost of closure of derelict and ownerless mines including asbestos mines was R44 billion. There were two issues provided by the department in this regard. The Committee could discuss the issue but the department must bear in mind the consequences. For instance, there was the issue that a law could not be made retrospective. He suggested that perhaps when making a presentation it would be best to present what was written because part of that submission was that “unfortunately some of the companies could no longer be traced because they were either liquidated or whatever word was used.” This was following a question regarding Newcastle and why government had to take responsibility, the Committee had been informed that some of the companies no longer existed and at the time there was no law regulating the closure of mines.  He asked members to agree that the Committee would still deal with derelict and ownerless mines.

The Committee was seeking clarity on the process for the MPRD Amendment Bill and it had sought legal advice as well as holding meetings with parliamentary staff to determine the Committee’s role in this process. The MRPDA was part of the Committee programme which changes from time to time. The limitation was that the process did not depend on the Committee entirely as there were outstanding processes. The Committee resolved that it would not partake in actual discussions until the processes of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) were completed. The administrative processes of parliament provided limitations. The suggestions for a possible MPRD Amendment Bill process had been submitted to the House Chair.  The Committee was mindful of allowing for the processes of the NCOP and particularly NHTL as these may have far reaching implications. As such, the Committee would do what needed to be done when the time was appropriate.

Mine Health and Safety Council on its 2015/2016 to 2019/202 Strategic Plan
Mr David Msiza, Chief Inspector of Mines, said that MHSC would continue playing an integral role in ensuring safety for mine workers. The Council was working with three stakeholders: the state, the employers and organised labour. The Council believed that collaboration with stakeholders had resulted in a significant improvement in health and safety although there was still room for improvement. The Council was ensuring that all programmes including the strategic plan and Mine Health and Safety commitments were aligned with government imperatives including the NDP and the State of the Nation Address (SONA). Causes of harm to mine workers today were different compared to causes of harm thirty years ago. The Council was ensuring that programmes were responding to these changes including issues of women in mining which was still a challenge in some areas.

Mr Thabo Dube, MHSC CEO, presented on the MHSC mandate, structure, strategic goals, the 2014 Mine Health and Safety Summit milestones and agreements, Centre of Excellence launch and Quick Wins Project, as well as its research projects.

Mr Dube said MHSC had ten strategic objectives which were aligned to the NDP chapters nine, ten and thirteen as well as the State of National Address (SONA) particularly the nine point plan to ignite economic growth and health issues affecting mine workers.

One of the key objectives was MHSC’s advisory role in the industry and to the Minister on occupational health and safety issues. In 2014 the Council hosted a successful summit where stakeholders reviewed the Council’s progress from 2003-2013. The review offered suggestions as to what else could be done to improve occupational health and safety. The principals approved the new summit milestones which were bold. The benchmark countries for health and safety were USA, Australia and Canada. The new milestones had clear initiatives and action plans with clear time frames. The roles and responsibilities for stakeholders were also very clear in terms of what needed to be done to achieve the goal of zero harm. One of the new milestones was the elimination of fatalities and injuries and a target was set to eliminate all fatalities by 2020. There were a number of initiatives that the industry had to embark on to achieve this milestone.

Since 2003 South Africa had made progress in terms of being comparable to other major jurisdictions globally. The country was striving to achieve its targets through various initiatives. Induced hearing loss was a major concern in the industry and a new target had been set to carry out an inventory in all the mines to look at equipment used. The target set was a sound pressure level of 107 dB (A) and MSHC would ensure that by 2024 none of the equipment used exceeded the set level. An initiative in terms of research was a new silencer which had been designed to deal with noise and was already installed at SASOL. This was in line with the objective of technological transfer to deal with noise problems.

Another summit milestone was reduction and prevention of TB, HIV and AIDS infections as the industry had one of the highest rates of infection. The Council aimed to reduce the incidence rate to be below or at the national TB incidence rate. MSHC would continue with the culture Transformation Framework and had prioritised six pillars within the framework. These were: leadership, risk management, bonus and performance incentive, data management, diversity management and leading practice pillars. The remaining pillars would be focused on when the priority pillars had been fully implemented.

The second objective was to promote and communicate MHSC programmes to improve occupational health and safety awareness. Part of the initiatives was engagement with stakeholders which allowed a two way communication in terms of feedback on whether the Council was really addressing issues that were pressing in the industry.

The Council also had an objective for procurement which aimed at improving the turnaround time for procurement of services to ensure delivery. Under the internal perspective objective, the Council was dealing with capacity building enhancement of employee performance management.

In 2014 a summit was held to launch the Centre of Excellence (CoE) which aimed to be a game changer in how business was conducted especially when it came to research. The Council had signed agreements with its four partners, the University of Pretoria, Wits University, CSAR and the National Institute for Occupational Health. After signing the Memorandums of Association, it was decided that whilst still developing a business development plan, the CoE would be fully implemented by 2016. Quick win projects would be implemented along with implementation of the CoE. The quick win projects would be addressing issues which relate to mechanisation in the industry as that was the direction the industry was heading. Communication systems between underground and surface would have real time communication rather than waiting for the shift to end.  Independent testing facilities would be revitalised especially with the support units that were used in mines. There would also be a project to address continuous monitoring of the underground environment to have real time assistance in decision making. With the move to mechanisation, challenges were experienced with accidents related to machinery collisions and people being run over by machinery. MHSC was also looking for guidelines in terms of choice for collision management systems and the devices that would be used for the industry in the country. Another project was on statutory equipment which would look at the equipment in the country and ageing of mines as most of the mines were old. The project would also look at the state of repair for such equipment and advise the Minister on what needed to be done to bring the equipment to an effective usable level without creating challenges in terms of accidents.

Nine new projects would be implemented in the 2015/16 financial year. One key project would deal with the impact of noise / ground vibrations which create cracks in the houses in the surrounding communities. Currently there was a challenge in dealing with the impact of noise because there were no standards on the distance for blasts. The Council would also be coming up with regulations on how to manage impact of noise. Another project would be providing guidelines to effectively seal underground openings in closed and abandoned mines which would help to curb illegal mining.

Under technology transfer projects, the Iyashisa Mining Game was being utilised to induct miners in terms of heat stress. There was also netting and bolting which was an outcome of Council projects. This was really assisting the industry in terms of reduction in incidents of ground falls.

In August 2015 the council would be holding a conference on women in mining on issues of health and safety. A project on personal protective equipment for women had been completed. The Council had also finalised guidelines on equipment for women’s safety in mining.

MSHC had agreed to commemorate mine workers who died in various mining disasters in conjunction with DMR and other departments. The Council had already had discussions with the Department of Arts and Culture and the Heritage Council on how to go about the commemoration. At the end of the month a Programme of Action for commemorating some of the mining disasters would be finalised. The Council had a list of disasters starting from the 1900s and would be prioritising due to financial constraints. One of the initiatives would be to erect walls of remembrance on the sites where the disasters occurred. Also the Council would ensure that the industry learned from past events so that these incidents were not repeated.

Mr Dube concluded that in order for the Council to achieve the strategic objectives and the new summit milestones, commitment was required from each and every stakeholder. Every mine worker should return from work unharmed every day, in striving for zero harm.

Mr Matlala asked where and when the wall of remembrance would be built and in which province. He was of the view that it should be where a significant number of the mine workers lost their lives as the wall could not be in a place where there were no mine workers. 

Mr Pikinini asked whether the consultations with the DAC had also included family members of the deceased miners. In his experience many times government officials fail to consult the families. It was a long and tedious process, considering the culture of South Africans. The Council did not have to respond to the question but he was bringing the issue to their attention to find a way to deal with customs.

Ms Mafolo asked whether the Council was only providing support to mine workers in regards to elimination of noise and dust. If so, what about the communities because the Committee once visited a sight where communities were complaining about dust from the mines and there was also a school nearby. How best could the Council assist communities with the problem?

The Chairperson said after looking at the budget presented by the Council and the budget estimates, there were inconsistencies. In the Council’s 2016 budget there was a roll-over of about R74 million on research and it was reflected as an income. There was also approved rollover of R74 million from Treasury. Then below that there was Research expenditure rollover project. However as an income item there was no reflection that it was a rollover project for research. This gave the impression that the Council would get rollover funding and spend it anyhow. He added the budget heading indicated that the statement of financial performance was for the period ended 31 March 2016-2019. There was no information for the 2015/16 financial year which had not yet ended. Furthermore the Rollover projected expenditure reflected that in 2017 it would drop to R54 million, then go up to R57 million in 2018 and up to R60 million in 2019. This was a huge investment on research on safety yet the Council’s primary task was safety. The total cost for staff was higher at R31 million than its expenditure on promotion of health and safety which was budgeted at one million rand. Administrative expenditure was also higher than expenditure on promotion of health and safety. He was not sure if the expenditure on research was linked to the actual provision of mine health and safety as that was the Council’s primary task. The Chairman asked the Council to perhaps elaborate on the research expenditure as large amounts would be spent in consecutive years.

The Chairperson said from the presentation he could not get a sense of urgency about the vulnerability of women in mining. The issue had also been raised in previous meetings. As such it did not make sense to spend a lot of money on research when there was an almost crisis level for vulnerability of women in mining which prevents women from participating effectively in mining.  He had hoped there would be an expenditure item for the strategy to intensify women’s safety.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on utilisation of resources because the Department of Health had complained about resources being drained. Some of the unions were keeping money which could be used and some employers were also keeping money which could be used for health and safety. For example if the Council was going to do commemoration it could not be done without addressing legacy issues relating to conditions of mining. If health and safety concerns were concentrated at the mine level without taking cognisance of other areas it becomes costly for the state .How much money was the Council spending on mine health and safety together with the other tripartite parties as it was not indicated in the budget. Mine workers had complained that money was retained by employers for health and safety yet expenditure was very low. This was in relation to the alleged consolidated funds by the government and tripartite parties.

Mr Dube replied that a list of mining disasters starting from the early 1900s was available. The Council planned to deal with each disaster as a specific case. A number of commemoration events would be held across the country that was why the Council was working on an Action Plan on how to deal with the disasters. The disasters occurred in different months of the year. The Council would have to determine the number of disasters to be dealt with in each financial year. Before commencing the commemorations the Council would consult with respective mines or companies if they were still in existence as well as organised labour to assist in linking up with families if they were still traceable.

He replied that when dealing with noise, the Council’s approach was not focusing only on mines. It was assisting mines to be able to assist communities by providing guidelines on what to do. The Council had communities in mind. Whatever mines were doing it had to reflect positively on the communities residing close to mines.

Mr David Molapo, MHSC Chief Financial Officer, replied that the spending on research aggregated the operations of health and safety which was a mandate for the Council. It was not talking to research in isolation of the Council’s mandate. Research was just an aggregation of the Council’s mandate; perhaps the use of the word had created confusion.

On the rollover, in the CEO’s presentation there were summit agreements that the Council had entered into which had milestones that had to be achieved. In addition there were quick win projects that the Council would be dealing with whilst developing a business plan for the CoE.  In the previous financial year which ended 2013/2014 the Council made a request to Treasury that the Council had accumulated reserves amounting to around R187 million in that financial year. Figures for 2014/15 were not readily at hand but the figure was around R200 million in reserves. It was on the approval received from Treasury that the reserves could be used for funding of the CoE and all matters related to it. The approved rollovers in the budget was referring to spending which would be tapped from these reserves. As an entity the Council was not required to budget on a deficit.  If it projected that it was likely to spend R74 million in 2015/2016 financial year, then the Council should make an allocation of the same amount from reserve to income. Otherwise the budget would appear to be in deficit. It was expected that once the CoE had taken off the Council would be more proactive towards its mandate. There would be a declining usage of the reserve funds, hence in the following financial years from 2017 to 2019 it was expected that R54 million, R57 million and R60 million would be spent respectively from the reserve fund. Expenditure was influenced by planned activities which would be funded from the reserves.

Mr Molapo replied that the Chairperson could not see 2015 on the budget submitted because 2014/15 was the financial year that had just ended. The figures in the budget were for projected spending for the 2015/16 financial year and forward. Perhaps the heading could have included 2015/16-19 as the reporting period. In addition to the R74 million expenditure from reserves approved by Treasury; the Council also had to budget annually for activities and the CEO had noted the Council had a number of new projects.  These projects were independent of those projects which would be funded from the reserve. In the current financial year R7.6 million had been reserved for such projects.

Strategic objective expenditure had been indicated separately because in order for the Council to be able to deliver on the new projects there were certain strategic things that had to be looked at internally. A breakdown of the budget for the strategic objectives was indicated in the budget.

Mr Molapo replied that R1 million budgeted for promotion of health and safety would be generated from funds realised from fines for noncompliance with health and safety regulations as stipulated in the Act. The Act was very clear as to how the funds should be spent and administrative fines did not yield a lot of money. Administrative expenses mostly entailed rentals, insurance, telephones and all the things that supported an office to operate. The staff costs were what the board approved and a detailed breakdown was included in the documents.

Mr Mziwakhe Nhlapo, Organised Labour Convenor, MHSC, added that the issue of noise for communities was very important and organised labour brought it to the Council’s attention three years ago. The Council started carrying out research to find out what were the hot spot areas that affected communities immediately, particularly dust. There was still work going on and some work had been finalised and an advisory note had been sent to the Minister.  A programme of activities would unfold once the Minister was satisfied with the advisory note. Campaigns were also undertaken collectively with the mandate of MHSC. Recently a TB awareness month was conducted in March and MSHC was quite visible at various events to raise awareness in the promotion of occupational health and safety. This promotion cuts across all the Council’s activities, therefore accounting for it financially, it might not only be accounted in the R1 million reflected in the budget. There was a forum for all stakeholders of mine health and safety which was a World Bank funded project to deal with TB. The forum was waiting for funding amounting to R54 million from the Global Fund to rollout programmes in communities across the SADC region. There was still room for improvement and organised labour was liaising with communities and putting pressure to improve occupational health and safety.

Mr Msiza added that on the issue of dust and noise, the outcome of the research done was the consideration of legal legislation implications. Mr Dube had spoken about the personal protective equipment (PPE) for women when the research was completed the Council came up with guidelines to assist the sector. The Council acknowledged that it had done significantly well in terms of research which had helped to have a significant improvement in health and safety. Research enabled the Council to come up with legislation, with skills development initiatives, equipment and other things. The Council and the three stakeholders acknowledged a need for continuous promotional work. Also there was a need to support all regional and provincial forums which were established by DMR and stakeholders.

Mr Msiza replied that equity and women in mining was an issue that the Council was grappling with and upon return the Council would deal with it especially within the Council. In collaboration with the MQA the Council was ensuring that the programmes of the MQA responded to the challenges of women skills development. It had established offices in rural areas to encourage people in the rural areas including women to be interested in mining. Concerns were raised about the Department of Health and Labour compensation for diseases and deaths caused by the mines. The Council’s approach was to prevent this harm to workers which would restrain the financial constraints for raised concerns about compensation. On the compensation for ex-miners, the Council was again working with the Department of Health and Labour to create one-stop centres. So far, two one-stop centres had been established in Carletonville and Umtata. Beyond the walls of commemoration, the Council was working with the DAC to consider making a documentary about mining issues. Many disasters occurred that people were not aware of, for instance 460 people died in one mining disaster because of caving-in in 1960.

Mr Dube added that the Council had just completed a project which would help with the safety of women in mines. The project was focusing on inducting men in terms of how they dealt with women in the industry. A book and video had been developed to assist people in the mines about how to deal with sexual harassment, security and physical safety. The Council would also be developing guidelines related to labour relations as it had been found that some parts of the sector were struggling with labour relations.

The Chairperson said there was a difference between hearing and understanding; he had heard the submission but still did not understand it. The Council’s budget had serious inconsistencies. He asked if the Council would look at its strategic plan again and align it with the budget as well as with what Treasury said. Research should not encompass all the Council’s activities. Thus the programmes should appear separately on the budget so as to give an indication of how much money was spent on each programme. The Council’s task was to ensure that once workers went underground they were protected and money should be spent on this. The Council should not be proud of having a surplus because when talking of zero harm it included women who were being raped and killed underground. If the Council was doing what some mine companies were failing to do then such companies should be given an invoice. Enforcement alone was not enough. There should be some kind of a carrot and a stick. Budgeting on a surplus presented a negative picture in light of the crisis in the mines. He appreciated that the Council was an oversight for the mining companies to enforce compliance.  On gender equity, he said the Council should enforce stakeholders to ensure that women were empowered in mining.

He requested a budget that was consistent with the strategic plan should be made available to the Committee by the next week. Also the presentation and the strategic plan submission were different. What was worse was that Treasury said one thing and the Council was saying another. Was there any money that Treasury had to take back because the Council did not spend it? Also the information about the reserve was not available and the Committee should be provided with this information. It was not right for the Council to present an incomplete budget to the Committee and he requested that a full comprehensive budget should be made available to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

[Apologies were received from Mr H Schmidt, Mr Z Mandela, Mr J Malema and Mr Jafta. Mr S Mbatha (EFF) said he was an alternate for Mr Malema. Apologies were also received from the Minister who was attending a cabinet meeting.]


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: