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SA mines must rectify past injustices, Sibanye CEO says

Past to blame for present government, labor problems.
Sibanye Gold Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman.

The failure of South Africa’s mining industry to rectify the injustices of its apartheid-era past is in large part to blame for today’s difficult operating environment, where mines face changing government regulations and labor strife, according to Sibanye Gold Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman.

“We need to critically and honestly acknowledge the role of our industry where it acted against the interests of the vast majority of South Africans if we wish to secure full reconciliation with our broader society,” Froneman said at a dinner in Johannesburg on Tuesday night before the start of Joburg Indaba, an annual mining conference. “We have, ladies and gentlemen, a past that continues to taint our present.”

South Africa’s mining industry, which has the world’s biggest reserves of platinum, third-largest stores of gold and is the biggest manganese producer, has been hit by frequent labor strikes and an uncertain regulatory environment. The Chamber of Mines, which represents mining companies, took the government to court earlier this year over plans to force mines to cede 26% stakes to black investors even if they had already done so. The two sides are still negotiating a solution.

Froneman last month joined Sipho Pityana, the chairman of AngloGold Ashanti and a prominent member of the governing African National Congress, in calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down because a series of scandals involving him is deterring investors.

Rather than complain and fight their corner, mining companies need to “change the way we think and act” if they are to build better relationships with government and workers, said Froneman, who is also vice president of the chamber. This means agreeing to a plan for the future with relevant stakeholders and making sure more people benefit from the profit generated by mining, he said.

“This ambitious vision can be realised through a renewed collective will and rebooted relationships that are not contaminated with historical perceptions and legacies,” Froneman said.

© 2016 Bloomberg

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