Ramphele: SA mining stuck in 19th century

2012-09-26 16:54

Cape Town - South Africa needs to dig itself out of a 19th-century mining business model, academic Mamphela Ramphele said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a media briefing ahead of an international leadership education conference in Cape Town, she said a failure to change the nature of the industry is having devastating repercussions.

"We've just had this tragic Marikana debacle, and what was in evidence there is the consequence of South Africa failing to transform the mining industry from a 19th century business model, which relies on cheap migrant labour, very archaic mining technology and a... low-skilled, labour-intensive industrial base."

She said change could come from leaders of business schools, leaders in the private mining sector and citizens putting their heads together.

"I want to make sure my three-year-old grandson in 30 years' time is in a country he can be proud of - and that will not happen, unless we deal with the legacy issues which are holding us back."

Ramphele, who also chairs the Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] board, said her recent visit to the mining house's Australian operations showed the industries in the two countries were like chalk and cheese.

"Of course, they were established in different periods, but that doesn't stop us, because one of the things South Africa is underplaying is technological innovation capacity," Ramphele said.

She referred to the London underground rail system, and said tunnelling technology developed in South Africa had contributed towards this.

Ramphele said the ability to innovate and change to a new mining model was not lacking in South Africa.

"We just have not applied our minds because there isn't the political leadership and will to create a framework for a mining industry of the 21st century."

She also took aim at industry bosses.

"The private sector, in the form of the mining industry, has also not exercised its mind about how do you leverage the huge endowment... in the form of mineral resources; leveraging that as a way of positioning South Africa as a globally competitive economy."

Ramphele said South Africa had missed the benefits of the last mining boom, while other countries flourished.

"The other thing we do in South Africa - which is really inexplicable, that's the polite way of putting it - is that we are exporting value to China, to India, to everywhere.

"We mined the riches the dear Lord gave us, gave it to others to process, which means we are exporting jobs, then we reimport (processed minerals) at huge costs for our own purposes, which is why we are de-industrialising."

She said re-industrialisation in mining would depend on a rethink of the whole value chain.

Ramphele is also a businesswoman and medical doctor, and was an anti-apartheid activist.

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  • customdesign - 2012-09-26 17:02

    Fire the workers and employ robots!

      Willie - 2012-09-26 17:14

      I do not think you have read what Dr Ramphele is saying in this essay.Please read it

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 17:21

      Lack of intellectual depth suspected here hence this pathetic post, seemingly from the designer middle class suburban dweller.

      denis.delaport - 2012-09-26 17:26

      To confirm Dr Ramphele the 19th century is from the 1800's to the 1900's ??????????

      german.mazokera - 2012-09-26 17:48

      Back to basics, millions of £ are used to manufacture those robots and thousands are employed to manufacture them ,so everyone will not lose out in the process but many will get employed along the way of develop, manufacture and the ultimate use of robots for the purpose of mining, processing and selling of the end user of the mineral.

      claudia.meads - 2012-09-26 18:31

      The inconvenient reality is that SA has a labor force stuck in the 19th century B.C. and so is the post Polokwane 2007 regime. SA is a country under siege of a cattle-herder with no known education and the mind of a child that took 21 years to fail Woodwork. While SA has produced some of the greatest minds alive (eg Dr Ramphele), they are being relegated to the sidelines by panga-wielding mobs, who think there is a muti that will make bullets bounce off you. 70% of the people who vote for the ANC are unemployed. Almost all of them are unemployable. The remainder of the people who vote for the ANC are almost all beneficiaries of a massively 'over-bloated' civil service - likely 2/3rds larger than what a well managed, efficient and productive service would have been. Technically these people are also unemployed - they are simply de facto recipients of welfare. It would be reasonable to say that at least 85% of the people who vote for the ANC make no meaningful economic contribution. SA's labor market has > 85% of people who are unemployable as they are impossible to educate. South Africans remain in deep denial; they continue to believe education is a 'pill' you take in the morning and VOILA, EURIKA, you have an educated nation. At best, the ANC's education has produced illiterate graduates. If you want to save SA (if it is even still possible) - immediately abolish all forms of Affirmative Action. Stop corruption by civil legal force. Start a 50-year education plan.

      colin.dovey - 2012-09-26 18:46

      For anybody who is familiar with the UNIQUE, Deep Level, Narrow Reef "stoping" I can tell you that South African Mining Engineers are amongst the very best in the world - and a range of approaches HAVE been devised, including the use of Laser technology, Long Hole drilling, sequential blasting...the list goes on. So "academic" Mamphela Ramphele does not know what she is dealing with, and Deep Level Mining (1-2 Kms down) is NOT stuck in the 19th Century. With a very unique orebody such as we have in Gold Mines, and to some extent in Platinum, please can she enlighten us where in Australia, Canada, Russia and China they are handling EXACTLY the same problem? As for Robots and firing the workers - where do we stop - Mechanised farming, Taxis (yes please), Vehicle Manufacturing - what do we do then with our HUGE, unemployable labour force? Get real please we need to fix the education FIRST!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-27 00:14

      Downsising the people and upsising the profits! You all sound like the robots you are advocating for, and not human beings. This is what twelve years of formal schooling does, it transforms human beings into commodities, primed and ready to exploit.

      wwrer.ww - 2012-09-27 09:16

      Actually the problem is that SA is too far away from the rest of the world. We need money, which we don't have. We need entrepreneurs, which we don't have. We need machinery, which we don't have. We need skilled labor, which we don't have. We don't have a strong domestic market that can support the development of business. We lack everything except the raw materials, that is what many have said: create a lean, mean private sector economy with ultra low taxes and whola... you have everything: good salaries, more profits, faster economic growth, faster regional and skills development. We need capitalism - free market capitalism, but something that is out of this world, Hong Kong style.

      rob.bancroft.94 - 2012-09-28 18:28

      Cannot agree what she is saying is good sense. Firstly, she has got her centuries wrong. There was very little mining in the 19th century and those guys are dead long ago, anyway. I would agree that present mining bosses thinking is stuck in the mid 20th century and most cannot seem to move away from that. Mechanisation is certainly the answer and SA engineers are very capable in achieving this, but can you imagine the consequences for the unemployment figures! But perhaps that is the way they will be forced to go with the excessive demands being made on them. Those bright sparks that think that manufacturing these machines will use all those not employed by the mines anymore need to think again. As for those who say we should process our minerals, they do not also think. Have they not heard of Iscor/Mittal, Highveld Steel, Samancor, Alusaf, etc, etc?? These are power hungry industries and will they explain how is Eskom who cannot hardly supply present demands supposed to supply the excessively high demands of the new companies to process the minerals that are exported at present. Australia is exporting most of their minerals and they are not complaining, but are doing very well. Maybe they think better. Perhaps she should stick to medical matters or politics.

  • beki.khumalo - 2012-09-26 17:09

    Now there's a thinker! I love her.

      mphela.kelatu - 2012-09-26 17:16

      only if the brainles cader's thy w'll agree with her

      elize.cuypers - 2012-09-26 17:51

      will you still love her when you are unemployed. because a machine will take your place

      themba.maseko.568 - 2012-09-27 08:35

      No really a thinker, just a talker. We need to acknowledge that a majority of our poeple will be unemployed if we use high tech to mine suddenly. So we have to move smoothly. We first need programmes that will focus our country into developing our people, and I expect people like the GREAT Dr Ramphele to lead such programmes and to work with the government of the day and STOP pointing figures!!!

  • jpstrauss - 2012-09-26 17:13

    We can either employ thousands of low-skilled workers or use machinery. It's an unfortunate inevitability.

      mlu.khan - 2012-09-26 18:26

      Its easy to say these things, although they are true. But there needs to be proper engagement, all the stakeholders, then implement pragmatic and amicable solutions and best practice for all involved

      blip.noodlum - 2012-09-27 05:57

      "Proper engagement"? What might be "improper" engagement, then? And why engage "properly" unless there's something gainful in it for you? Who are "all" the stakeholders? Workers? Management? Investors? Customers? Government? All of them? Who leads this process of stakeholder-engagement, and what would be the goals and intentions behind this large sacrifice of time and effort? What would render a "solution" (assuming there really is a problem requiring such a solution in the first place) suitably "pragmatic"? What would be the limits of pragmatism that ought not to be exceeded? And whose practice -- from anywhere on earth -- represents the "best practice"? Nut out this example of apparently-empty sloganeering/PC jargon.

  • The4thHorsemen - 2012-09-26 17:15

    Easy mechanize mining and keep up to date with available tech and in the process add a few more percentage points to unemployment. It makes perfect sense

      The4thHorsemen - 2012-09-26 23:29

      I agree yet there is one problem with this... All the mineral rights have been leased to companies from outside SA by the government so there might be a problem to obtain those rights for SA

  • zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 17:15

    All RSA employees less Management are underpaid hence the circumstances RSA finds itself today. Tis a vicious circle when there ain't enough funds available to the General public to create Economy and wealth.

      jayjay.mlungu - 2012-09-26 18:00

      YEs Zapadela and I am afraid the circle starts with education. Our school leavers are unable to find skilled jobs because they just aren't being taught the basics. That's where it starts. I agree with the good Doctor 100%. We have to learn and invest in SA and not export the wealth. Herein another problem, Eskom can't provide the power and the logistical infrastructure is lacking. But South Africans are a resourceful bunch and if we get Gov, investors, labour, business and banks around the table working towards the good of SA, we can find a solution, I have no doubt.

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 18:22

      Agreed , Agreed , Agreed Jay Jay. Education is key and more of my fellow RSAs' are being educated since Democracy.

  • pierre.walt - 2012-09-26 17:20

    I dearly want work but AA will not allow me. Rather a small salary than nothing..

      Mike.ntsh2009 - 2012-09-26 18:21

      Pierre, if your statement was correct we would be having a less % of PDIs unemployed compared with non-PDIs. Check your employment stats you will see that the theory of PDIs taking more jobs is a fallacy. Check what's happening in middle to senior management on SA companies, especially those on the stock exchange. Another pointer, check "people on the move" on most local publications...whose faces are there?

  • mncedi - 2012-09-26 17:24

    Finally our academics starts to emerge! Where have you been hiding? I hope others can do the same because this country of ours seem to be dependend only on a political will. I strongly believe that our polititians should work together with the academics if they want to make this country a better place!

  • - 2012-09-26 17:31

    Read the comments and cannot see what academic value there is in them. If you want to veer away from cheap labour you have 2 options : expensive labor or automation i.e. few jobs. Also the technology and methods are not between 100 and 200 years old, they are far younger than that. Really not sure what this article is trying to say.

  • renier.diedericks - 2012-09-26 17:32

    I really don't agree with everything said in this, as transformation will not be onesided, it needs to come from both sides, and I am really tired o the workers spoilt brat attitude of want,want want.

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 17:44

      I want your house......What are you on about ? Live like these folk do for a week and you will be enlightened as to whom exactly your ridiculous ""Spoilt brat attitude"" alludes to. It is a common Human tendency to view items from your privileged perspective , It takes a proper human to look at incidents from all view points including the underpaid RSA workforce.

  • greypatriot - 2012-09-26 17:40

    Brilliant Mind! Drear Doctor why not stand for president?

  • douglas.reid.921 - 2012-09-26 17:48

    About 50 years ago miners were paid 50 cents a day by big rich mining houses. The workers were shangaans from rural areas. They lived very miserable lives where their joys were sorghum beer and cheap Boxer tobacco. Arguably they didn't have any alternatives cause they had no education or prospects of other jobs. Basically they were exploited. This was still the case in 1994. The ANC had lots of time to rectify the situation, instead they got shares and perpetuated the evil of the past. Instead we have Cyril and Tokyo and the rest of the billionaire elite. Its time for change.........

  • tikoloshe.hogana - 2012-09-26 17:52

    i hv always wondered her negative criticism of ANC governmt. hypocrite. this capitalist shares da gold fields. however she blames government for not providing leadership and will. how did ANC block u to pay workers better salaries? how much does she earn?

      johnny.matsetse - 2012-09-26 18:25

      Atleast she is saying something ,She is not hiding

      tikoloshe.hogana - 2012-09-26 18:47

      @Jonny only now that the strikes are in gold fields. did you here her comment on Marikana? she knows someone might say she chairs gold fields so she reveal first. defence mechanism bro

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-26 17:54

    It is deliberately structured this way so that the capitalist can extract as much profit as possible without any regard for those responsible for this work. It is the pathology of capitalists to be so removed from humanity that they are willing to expolit fellow man for a profit. They have been socialised to defy human conscience and float above it all, sublimely free of any human compassion. Remember that white man has no kin, his kin is money!

      Eduannn - 2012-09-26 23:11

      Regarding Rustenburg / Marikana try this - my posts have been deleted every time I mention it: Been deleted many times - lets try this: G o o g l e : B a f o k e n g T r i b e .

      Eduannn - 2012-09-26 23:15

      You will see that the land does NOT belong to the 'white man' - it is not only 'colonial settlers' that can exploit 'cheap migrant labour'!!!

      Eduannn - 2012-09-27 10:49

      I read your link Fidel. It reads more like a 'personal opinion', but anyway I agree with most of it and some of it I do not agree with. So what is your stance then - what do you propose as a solution? That the poor all over the world rise up and just take what they want? It will not work as they then become the new rich and the next group of poor people will then just again take what they want. It will become a never ending circle. There has to be laws that protect assets that people / companies have amassed over years - otherwise there will just be chaos. Btw I am conservative and anti Western liberal ideologies. I detest the fact that the American liberal Clintons (Bill and Hilary) has so much influence in the modern world.

      Eduannn - 2012-09-27 11:21

      Btw: some unrelated info: Did you know this ? The USA Republican Party (also called GOP (for "Grand Old Party")) was founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists. The Northern Republicans saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil.

  • daniel.ledwaba.5 - 2012-09-26 17:59

    Whose interest is she concerned with, the profit driven shareholders or salary increase seeking workers? is she advocating that machines should be used instead of people? Does she raise these transformation stories in board meetings? Does the Goldfield annual reports contain anything near to what she says?

  • buti.lembe - 2012-09-26 17:59

    You should have said that the 1st day you got employed. why you waited so long and now you trie to be an innocent person in public.

  • mandla.thwala.10 - 2012-09-26 18:03

    Mrs or Miss Ramphele thank you for your poetic elastration of the mining industry,But you have not not told us how much you earn as a chairlady of the very industry you are talking about pls tell us then we will simpathise with you

  • Sidney Gilroy - 2012-09-26 18:17

    Forget about the mines and white capital. Forget the cake - get the oven. Focus on SCHOOLS and UNIVERSITIES. You can't build a country with a mass of un-educated, economically dead youths!! EDUCATION should be FREE. They should be world class. SA spends the MOST per child in the world and we come LAST in maths and science. Where are the teacher's colleges?? Where are the feeding schemes, clothing schemes, libraries, technology schemes. Free food at school. Free transport. Free books and stationary. Free clothing and shoes. Free laptops and PC's. Free University for every A-student. A clinic at every school. Technical College. Agricultural Colleges. Tax breaks for families with studying children. Do that and you will see a different SA in 20 years and would've met all transformation targets.

      mlu.khan - 2012-09-26 18:41

      Maybe not entirely free, but make it better accessible Because even if you give free resources to 100k people for free to school and university, not all will pass and not all can sustain the skills shortages. But you know what, it would be a start to a new day of real empowerment

  • danny.zulu.79 - 2012-09-26 18:18

    Well said Miss, So Malema is ryt.

  • antjie.vanstraaten - 2012-09-26 18:32

    Let's take a view from the strongest current growing economy in the world... China. They work hard for a small pay. For some economic reason it works! Mrs. Ramphele should also consider the idea that proper legislation from the government can realise all the pipe dreams she is having. Make it attractive for investors to come and build the infrastructure to process the minerals and change the draconian labour laws so that the investors will be willing to employ workers. Only then my dear Lady, shall we proceed to a modern economy.

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 18:46

      China is a Communist country. The People have NO will in China. We are NOT the Chinese.

      blip.noodlum - 2012-09-27 06:00

      Of course Chinese people have "will". Any people, whatever their politics or ideology, have will. They're humans. All sentient humans have will.

  • Mandy Casey - 2012-09-26 18:34

    So less laborers , new technology and machines with higher skilled labour. She is not going to win any popularity contests with the miners. Nice plan hey? "relies on cheap migrant labour, very archaic mining technology and a... low-skilled, labour-intensive

  • Deepchund - 2012-09-26 18:39

    Even the apartheid government didn't have people with brains. We have been exporting iron ingots since the 70's to Japan and importing manufactured steel products. Dr Ramphele has not come up with something new to make everybody sit and take stock of our governments foolishness. The raw material export deals ensure the corporate leaders can have caviar and sail in their yachts and some government big wigs line their pockets while the SLAVES toil underground and return to their shanties. The miners must continue with their demands until a reasonable salary is paid. This nonsense that overseas investors will pull out is hogwash,just a scare tactic. South Africans can buy those shares. Forget about we are global players, let's make the lives of South African citizens comfortable.

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-09-26 18:50

      Applause.......100% correct mate. heheheheheeh........nice to know the Reality of our current predicament . BRICS new currency will change where World Power really lies.

  • toni.falletisch - 2012-09-26 18:40

    Hire some Chinese ,they are now our big Gabbas and bring in some Chinese law as well .... hanging for corrupt politicians.

  • meshack.letswalo - 2012-09-26 19:42

    Mamphele, you are just trying to save face as you have been exposed as an exploiter of the poor mine workers. As chairperson of Goldfields, you just became another black woman at the capitalist table.

      anton.cameron.muller - 2012-09-27 12:50

      yes. and a contributor to the sustainability of our economy. You sir, however, are willing a return to goat herding for the entire populace

  • mark.haupt.31 - 2012-09-26 20:38

    Hate to mention this whilst you're busy telling industry that they must solve the problem when the ANC are, through an invention of their own - the unions - liable to break the bank, because they need the votes and the voters are demanding wage increases of 200-400%. Only one outcome and it ain't going to be re-industrialization.

  • jim.binnie.1 - 2012-09-26 21:12

    Normally I am in complete agreement with Ms Ramphele but not this time. She seems to be punting the "lets mechanise the mines" concept at the risk of even more unemployment in South Africa with the resultant unrest. Surely the core problem here is the "migrant labour" concept where the locals around the mines are denied jobs and the "migrants" send all their salaries back to the far away "homelands". Rather let the mines employ local labour, increase the income levels of people in their immediate vicinity, build proper housing complexes and leave the "South African Problem of the Poor Homelands" to the Government to sort out as they inherited this problem from the "previous regime" which we so often here about. It is a Government problem more than a mining house problem, although the mining houses have been totally useless in trying to resolve the problem to date.

      Eduannn - 2012-09-26 22:58

      Lets see if I get deleted again! Hate to inform you Jim. The locals around Rustenburg do not have to work in the mines - They are the Royal Bafokeng Tribe - they own the land which the mines operate on/in - they also own the land called Sun City. As far as I know the richest tribe in Africa. That is why you have the 'migrant labour' on the platinum mines and probably elsewhere too. Bottom line - it is not only 'colonial settlers' that exploit cheap 'migrant' labour. Note from the editor: Eduann, the filter kicks you out because of the middle part of the B-word - hope it works this time.

  • hannah.p.mostert - 2012-09-26 21:33

    I agree Ramaphele and I support your notion, but we must move fast as we have lost so much money and time already, can we also drop all the beee ee aa and other discriminations as its not working, and we don't have time to waste on waiting for people to play catch up they will just have to learn on the way.

      kaapse.skollie.7 - 2012-09-27 08:14

      Top 3 mines in SA are british-owned. Strike is costing the brits billions every month. Shame.

  • blip.noodlum - 2012-09-27 05:47

    Mining will always be a simple, irreducible sequence of dig it out, move it away, crush it up... It's mining, not merchandising. It was like that in 2000BC and it still like that now -- only with better technology so we can now dig more out, move more away, crush more up... And you really don't need to be clever or educated to be a digger, an ore-shifter or a crusher. It's simple slog work. Always was, always will be.

  • frederikrudolph.vandyk - 2012-09-27 06:37

    Well said Miss Ramphele! Truly an excellent piece of observation!

  • prince.mthalane.3 - 2012-09-27 07:49

    Another rhetoric from an arm chair critic! Start by transforming the board u sit on or resign.

  • bronwen.f.phillips - 2012-09-27 08:09

    as always dr ramphele speaks the truth..the strikes will continue as will talk of nationalisation as no effort has been made to change modus operandi and look at world best practises for example the use of a broker with regard to Lonmin taking a huge cut..that is not sustainable. Spains tourism is worth more than South Africas gold sector ??????

  • etafrica - 2012-09-27 08:38

    Agree that all metal should be processed in this Country, to create work for people. After that they can export the finished goods. Wow, what a lot of work that would create.

  • sifiso.msimango - 2012-09-27 12:01

    futsek fake prof. sa mines have been malfunctioning donkey years ago

  • twalo.patrick - 2012-09-27 12:40

    That is what she did at UCT.She fired more than 500 poor workers,to her life it's about academy so who is going to do skilled labour if every one is academic.First deal with those academics who do not have jobs,staying at home empty handed.

  • anton.cameron.muller - 2012-09-27 12:45

    technology removes jobs. We have Unions... Wat nou Rampele?

  • ziyanda.magazi2 - 2012-09-27 14:07

    Shes speaking on the surface and has not thought of the suggestions she has raised thoroughly.Surely she's not the first on eto sugget that we should process our own gold- if we own any. Is it even feasible, If it was profitable to the mine-owners then it would be done already!

  • krad.knight.56 - 2012-09-27 19:19

    ahhhhh...I dnt think you knw what you talking abt. The reason for the drop in fatalities at mines is due to new technologies begining use. Secondly, if we use automated load haul trucks it will eliminate the need to an operator. So new technology means no jobs !!!!! Thankfully SA mines are doing this :D...Less holigans, Increased productivity and profit ! what a pleasure !

  • Mike.ntsh2009 - 2013-02-07 00:39

    Can she tell us what she has done as a chairperson of Goldfields to make that mining company live up to what she preaches?

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