'Naughty miners' unlikely to get back in line any time soon
The Times Editorial: The "shouting match" between the mining industry and the government appears to be far from over. Yesterday, incoming Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani spoke at the mining indaba and offered the government some advice.
Stop the shouting, he said. And the government's threat that it would revoke mining companies' licences was "out of order".
"In that context I think the issue of security of tenure and the comments about licences are not the conversations that other countries have had," he said
Cutifani was referring to the recent war of words with Amplats, Anglo's platinum operation, over its decision to downscale its South African operation, with 14000 jobs possibly cut as a result.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and ANC heavyweights such as Gwede Mantashe have responded to the announcement with strong threats of action against the mining company.
The disagreement has been a major theme at this week's mining indaba, in Cape Town, at which Shabangu said Amplats had been brought back into line.
"As the regulator, I see myself as a parent to the industry. When the children get out of hand, you have to bring them back into line . The child is back on track, " she said.
But it is clear that the threat of mining licences being withdrawn, and of further punitive action against what the government perceives to be wayward companies, has left smarting wounds.
Cutifani's language is not likely to endear him to Shabangu or the ANC. Even this week President Jacob Zuma accused mining companies of "blackmail" when they announced the possibility of retrenchments.
Amplats's plans have been postponed for more consultation. But, given Cutifani's words, we cannot share Shabangu's optimism that "the child is back on track". The tension between the mining companies and the government is not likely to disappear any time soon.