If you are a news junkie like me, you may have heard about the death of Platinum miners at the Lonmin mine in South Africa during a stand off between the Police and the miners who were on strike for various reasons including pay. In the aftermath of their deaths there has been a call for the renationalization of the mines amongst other things.
I am not entirely convinced that this is necessarily a good idea as I suspect government is not always best placed to run the mines or that the problem is necessarily due to the fact that the mines are held privately.
Notwithstanding the practical reasons of why this is not a good idea these communities would lose some of the other benefits that are available through the Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. In and of it’s own this is not a good enough reason not to renationalize the mines but as I argued in SHOULD CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY BE SCARPPED in some cases this is the only way that communities can access HIV medications, Education and other social services that are not currently being provided by governments. We therefore have a question to ponder- if the government/s is not currently providing social services where is the evidence that it would if the mines were nationalized?
Issues of inequality are deeply rooted in South Africa and most were highlighted in the recent BBC Africa Debate, speaker after speaker cited the fact that South Africa is dived along both colour and racial lines and that initiatives such as Black Economic Empowerment have only helped those black people that are already privileged, the rich and Politicians, moreover that there has been an explosion of desperately poor White South Africans.
Although this story happened in South Africa it could be anywhere else in Africa. Uganda for instance has discovered all manner of minerals and Oil. Who knows how that will unfold? Will the man in the street benefit directly from these riches in the ground or will it be concentrated in the hands of a few?
My suggestion would be to rethink the whole Corporate Social Responsibility (csr) notion as it relates to the mining industry and this would go beyond the provision of social services to include pay and job prospects for the miners. There are various processes that are involved in bringing precious metals/minerals to the market, however the people who take the most risk in this process are the least rewarded.
Why is that?
Surely this is not being Socially Responsible is it?
Yes, I know it is Business stupid and I do get it.
But unless the people who undertake the hardest work in the process of bringing these expensive metals/minerals to market are remunerated equitably I am afraid chances are there will be many more Lonmins in the future.
I would be very interested in views on this matter, as I suspect I have probably over simplified what is indeed a complex matter and perhaps one deserving some serious academic research