Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe has called on the mining sector to take very strict precautionary measures to ensure that miners are safe underground.
Last Wednesday night, nearly 1 000 mineworkers were trapped underground at the Sibanye Gold Mine in Theunissen, Free State, following an electric cable outage after a storm. The miners were brought to the surface by Friday morning.
Addressing the Mining Indaba Ministerial Symposium in Cape Town on Sunday, Minister Radebe said the incident should never have happened.
"We must take very strict precautionary measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.
"I trust that the mining executives and all other relevant stakeholders will investigate the matter and take punitive measures if there was any act of negligence," Minister Radebe said.
He said the lives of the mineworkers must come first.
The Minister urged indaba delegates to address difficult questions relating to the rapid changes brought about by new innovations in the mining industry.
Minister Radebe said the increasing rise of electric vehicles is contributing to a global demand of cobalt and the associated plug-in car battery storage solution has boosted the global demand for lithium.
"While this is exciting, we must understand what it means for traditional minerals such as those used in our traditional fuel emitting vehicles, [with] platinum being used in catalytic converters to decrease fuel emissions.
"We must ask ourselves how we will manage the impact on jobs as a result of lower demand of the conventional commodities and how companies will deal with the negative impact on the value of their portfolios," he said.
Minister Radebe said the industry has great potential to play a meaningful role in creating a better and more prosperous South Africa in the foreseeable future.
"In my capacity as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour Sending Areas, I will do my best to unblock any obstacles to development and steer the sector towards the attainment of our collective vision.
"As leaders of various African governments, we must harmonise our efforts and cherish a common vision for the mining sector," he said.
According to a recent study by Deloitte on Mining in Africa, there are approximately 30 mining projects to be developed on the African continent by the end of 2018, totalling an estimated minimum of US $18 billion.
Most of these are expected to reach full production by 2018 across different commodities, including copper mines, gold mines, diamond mines, coal mines, platinum mines, uranium mines and an iron ore mine.
"Approximately $10.5 billion has already been spent on these projects, with about 29% invested in South Africa, 23% in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 8% in Mauritania, 8% in Namibia, 8% in Zimbabwe and 7% in Zambia," Minister Radebe said.
The Minister called on African mining countries and mining corporations to establish long term sustainable partnerships that are beneficial to both shareholders and citizens of the host country.