In the 2015 State of the Nation (SONA) address on Thursday evening, President Jacob Zuma indicated governments continued concern about the advancement of the mining industry – the backbone of the country’s economy.

In the June 2014 SONA, Zuma spoke about the need to stabilise the mining sector and to promote a stable labour environment highlighting the spate of long and sometimes violent strikes taking place in the mining industry and the need to curb this. In doing so, the government implemented several programmes under the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry.

The outcome of these programmes has provided relative stability and optimism in the mining sector.

Another programme implemented in the mining sector includes the Mine Crime Combating Forums, which have been established in the North West, Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng provinces.

Government has also indicated that it would implement the agreements reached with business and labour, including the consideration of a national minimum wage.

“We had also made a commitment in last year’s SONA to revitalise distressed mining towns and a lot is being done to build the country’s mining towns,” he said in his address.

A total of R2.1-billion has been ring-fenced for this purpose with R290-million approved for informal settlement upgrading in Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Free State.

One hundred and thirty three informal settlements are being assessed or prepared for upgrading through the National Upgrade Support Programme, while 32 settlements are being upgraded and 87 housing projects are being implemented across the prioritised mining towns.

Zuma went on to say that government, the mining sector and the Banking Association of South Africa signed a social contract for the development of sustainable human settlements.

Government also continues to provide social development support within mining communities. Other support includes technical expertise with regards to integrated development plans and the development of special economic zones.

The mining towns are also being assisted with implementing the ‘Back to Basics’ municipal service delivery strategy.

Meanwhile, in terms of mining legislation, government is also reviewing the compliance of mining companies with the 2014 Mining Charter targets and has referred the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act back parliament to enable the correction of some constitutional shortcomings and others issues.

In response to requests by mining houses, government has synchronised environmental impact assessments, water and mining rights applications and has set a maximum of three hundred days for all of these authorisations to be issued, under the One Environmental System suite of laws implemented in December 2014.

In addition, government plans to establish a one stop inter-departmental clearing house to attend to investor complaints and problems.

Meanwhile, government gas begun to explore Operation Phakisa – a results-driven laboratory approach to planning and execution of programmes to implement the National Development Plan – in the mining sector.

“I have instructed government to partner with the mining sector to develop win-win solutions to beneficiate our mineral resources,” he said.

Operation Phakisa was launched last year on the ocean economy and is aimed at unlocking opportunities in the shipping, fisheries, aquaculture, mining, oil and gas, bio-technology and tourism sectors. So far, government has committed R9.2-billion rand investment in gas and oil exploration in the port of Saldanha as part of the Operation Phakisa initiative and launched the Scaling Up the Ideal Clinic Initiative aimed at promoting efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism in clinics.

Government has also, over the past five years, scored significant gains in health care, and this year aims to launch a massive tuberculosis ptogramme, with a special focus on three communities, namely mineworkers, communities in mining towns and offenders at correctional services facilities.

Besides advancing beneficiation and adding value to South Africa’s mineral wealth the other eight components of the government’s nine point plan to ignite economic growth included:

  • Resolving the energy challenge.
  • Revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.
  • More effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Policy Action Plan.
  • Encouraging private sector investment.
  • Moderating workplace conflict.
  • Unlocking the potential of small business.
  • State reform and boosting the role of state owned companies, ICT infrastructure or broadband roll out, water,
  • sanitation and transport infrastructure
  • Operation Phakisa aimed at growing the ocean economy and other sectors.

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