South Africa’s mining sector has been on the rebound after years of almost terminal decline, with several of the big players reporting soaring profits on the back of red-hot prices. The question now is whether the tide has turned on a decade of job losses.
The decline in South Africa’s mining sector in recent years was in part rooted in the sector’s history of exploitation, which gave rise to union militancy and the labour and social unrest that has rocked it over the past decade.
A perfect storm was also created as labour and power costs surged while prices stagnated or fell. Then there is the curse of “policy uncertainty”. Mining is a long-term game and the government kept changing the goalposts with successive Mining Charters, leaving boardrooms dazed and confused. And, of course, Eskom has played its part, with load shedding cutting production while adding another unwelcome layer of uncertainty. As a result, a lot of potential investment has been withheld.
One welcome trend from the recent turnaround has been a slowing and even reversal of job losses in the mining sector. Unemployment is South Africa’s number one social ill and in the wake of the economic destruction wrought…