30 November 2009

South Africa: Authority Develops Retrenched Miners

Johannesburg — PROVIDING technical skills to retrenched mineworkers would reduce illegal mining and empower them to become mining entrepreneurs, Mining Qualifications Authority CEO Livhu Nengovhela said last week.

Mining sector job losses had pushed former mineworkers to participate in illegal mining, he said.

Illegal mining is dangerous and costly to the industry. More than 60 illegal miners in the Free State died in an underground fire in June. A similar incident was reported from a mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga. The value of gold lost through illegal mining in recent years is estimated at more than R5,6bn.

Nengovhela said the authority had begun a small project to train what he referred to as "small-scale miners" to operate their businesses legally. "We are visiting provinces throughout the country through our small-scale mining project," he said. "We are able to assist illegal miners so that they can operate legally. We want them to operate their activities in a legal way so that they can be recognised by the Department of Mineral Resources."

Nengovhela was addressing reporters in Johannesburg on sectoral education and training authorities in relation to economic demands and pressure from the government to address skills shortages.

He said the authority had trained mineworkers in diamond mining and on environmental and legislative issues, using accredited service providers. "Out of the R3m that was budgeted for the project, we have trained (more than) 350 miners.

"Most of them are successful mining entrepreneurs," he said.

The authority also hoped to increase participation of women in the mining sector. Referring to learnerships generally, Nengovhela said 1947 women had been trained by the authority.

Nengovhela said the authority's training provided "opportunities to miners to improve their income earning capacity beyond the mine".

He said training and development of retrenched employees through lay-off schemes was also a priority.

"The current economic recession and job losses in the sector was a major challenge to us," he said.

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