The 2017 Revised Mining Charter has created animosity between government, represented by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the mining houses, presented by the Chamber of Mines.
The implementation of the Charter has been put on hold by a court injunction initiated by the Chamber of Mines. There is a high likelihood that the Charter will be implemented at a later stage but with some amendments.
The spat the Chamber of Mines has had with the DMR, in particular Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, has diverted attention from what is genuinely good and bad about the Revised Charter. By personalising the debate on the Charter, debate on issues of substance which have potential positive impact to the mining communities and workers have been relegated.
One of the good elements of the Revised Charter, with going into details of its practicality, which may be a sub-judice matter, is that of women participation and empowerment in the mining sector. Women being late-comers to the mining sector, their participation and growth within the sector still needs external push.
With women in South Africa constituting more than 50% of the population, the country’s vision of creating an all-inclusive developed society is not possible without women participation in mainstream economic activities of the country.
Mining is one of the critical sectors of the South African economy, as such it is expected to play a role in creating employment and advancement opportunities for the women.
Women in the mining sector still face a number challenges.
A 2015/2016 survey that involved 2,856 women revealed that the two most critical challenges that women in the South African mining sector faced were lack of career progress and discrimination in decision making.
The Revised Charter includes provisions that can potentially mitigate these two women-specific challenges under the sections on employment equity and human resource development.
Under the employment equity section, the Revised Charter stipulates that women should constitute 25% of board and executive management positions of mining businesses.
At senior and middle management levels, the representation of women should be 30% and 38% respectively, and 44% of all junior managers should be women.
On the Human Resources side, the Charter stipulates that 5% investment of the leviable amount should be devoted to skills development.
By being pro-active, women can be trained at the employers’ costs to acquire the skills they need to progress in the work environment in the sector.
The delay in the implementing the Charter creates an opportunity for all stakeholders to take a moment to review and assess the potential impact of the Charter to its constituency, if implemented in the current the form or with amendments.
What is clear is that the stakes in the mining sector that the Charter intends to influence are very high.
The voice of women in mining need to heard on the provisions and the practically of the Charter based on their experiences in working in the mines.
Other stakeholders beyond women in mining, should too take keen interest in how the Revised Charter does or does not advance their interests. Those who find that the Charter has a potential to serve their interests, such as women in mining, should come out and broadly add their voice in full or partial support of the Revised Charter.
Business in mining, through the Chamber of Mines, is very clear of what it wants from the Charter and has demonstrated how far it is willing to go to protect its interests, but what about other stakeholders?
Ultimately, all stakeholders should pro-actively ensure that the good about the 2017 Revised Mining Charter is not be lost and subdued by feud between the Chamber of Mines and the Department of Mineral Resources.