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August 2009
Two-year wage agreements between the Chamber of Mines’ coal and gold members and their respective unions were finalized on July 28 2009.

In the gold sector, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold and Rand Uranium signed the 2009 wage agreements with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA. 

As part of the agreement, the companies will increase salaries for entry-level employees by 10.5% and by 10% for other lower category employees. Salaries for miners, artisans and officials will increase by 9%. 

In the July 2010 pay month, the salaries will be improved by CPI (Consumer Price Index) plus 1%, with a guaranteed increase of 7.5%. The monthly underground entry-level salaries will be increased to R4 000 by July 2010. 

These increments are in addition to other improved benefits such as increases in the living out allowance from the current R1 200 a month to R1 400 a month by September 2010. 

The Chamber’s chief negotiator on behalf of its gold sector members, Dr Elize Strydom, said she was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations. 

“I would like to thank the union leadership for the professionalism in which these negotiations took place, particularly as this was during a period of a difficult operational environment for the gold mining sector,” she said.


The Chamber’s colliery members, Anglo Coal, Xstrata, Exxaro, Delmas Coal, Kangra, Springlake, Optimum and Siyanda, signed a two-year wage agreement with the unions NUM, Solidarity and UASA, in terms of which wages will increase on average by between 9% and 10%. 

At Anglo Coal, Xstrata, Exxaro, Delmas Coal and Kangra salaries of miners, artisans and officials will increase by 9%. For all other employees, except entry-level employees, the increase will be 10%, while salaries for entry-level employees will be increased by 11%. The living out allowance paid to employees will be increased by the same percentage as the salary increase. 

Optimum and Siyanda Collieries do not have different categories of employees and the salaries of their employees will therefore increase by 9.5%. the salaries of the lower category employees for Springlake will increase by between 9.5% and 10%, while those of their miners, artisans and officials will increase by 9%. 

In the second year, the salaries of all employees on coal mines will increase on 1 July 2010 by the average CPI plus 1%, with a guaranteed increase of 7.5%.

The Chamber’s chief negotiator for the coal sector, Dr Frans Barker, said: “I’m very pleased with the outcome of the negotiations. Both employers and unions have approached the negotiations in a constructive manner”. 

Barker commended the union leadership on their professional approach to the negotiations and said that the signing of the 2009 coal wage agreement was an historic occasion, as it was first time that Chamber level wage negotiations had been settled without referral to the CCMA”. 

Fair and reasonable

Labour expert Andrew Levy has been quoted as saying the agreements were, “very fair and reasonable” at a time when the mining industry is not doing well. 

He said: “The unions have done a good job for their members and this shows that collective bargaining can be fruitful and can be used to avoid unnecessary strike actions.” 

Gideon Du Plessis, who negotiated on behalf of trade union Solidarity, said his union, which largely represents workers in the coal sector, was “satisfied” with the 9% and pleased that the agreements could be reached without strike action. 

“In the light of the current economic recession, we didn’t want to push employers for a high wage hike, which would later result in retrenchments,” he said. “The economic situation puts pressure on mining companies, but a concerted effort must now be made to take advantage of the upturn that is already visible in various areas of the economy and the prospects thereof in the mining industry, in order to help boost the industry.” 

Exxaro offers sponsored, voluntary adult basic education and training (ABET) programmes at all its commodity business, except where employees are fully literate. 

Exxaro, the fourth-largest South African coal producer, carries the full cost of these programmes, totaling about R3, 3-million in 2008. 

Candidates are screened and counseled to ensure they are able to make informed decisions. An incentive scheme is in place for each level completed, to encourage more employees to become functionally literate and numerate. 

More than 1 000 employees have passed one or more ABET level since inception of this programme. 

During 2008, 236 employees completed various ABET levels successfully ABET learners are compared with the previous year. 

Of these, 14 passed ABET level 4, 29 passed level 3, 45 level 2, 98 level 1 and 50 learners were pre-ABET. 

The number of non-employees completing different ABET levels also more than doubled from 2007 to 2008. Across the group, 68% of employees had an NQF level 1 and above qualification by September 2008. 

There are now accredited ABET training centres at Exxaro’s Grootegeluk, Tshikondeni, Matla and Arnot mines. 

In compliances with the National Skills Strategy, KZN Sands, Namakwa Sands, Grootegeluk and the company’s corporate centre already have more than 70% of their employees enrolled on NQF Level 1 and higher. 

Recent Exxaro ABET successes include:

  • All KZN Sands’ ABET learners went through to the next step in their literacy training at the end of 2008, with 15 contractor employees enrolled in the level 1 programme.
  • At Matla, two full-time educators run the ABET programmes and at least 90 employees each year attend 13-week full-time courses. The success of this approach is reflected in Malta’s 100% ABET pass rate in 2008.

    When, in 1887, it was discovered that the Witwatersrand gold reefs went deep down and that it would be necessary to prepare for deep level mining, no one imagined that mines would eventually reach depths of 3 km. yet in South Africa, where you will find the deepest mines in the world, there are two ultra deep mines, Mponeng and Savuka where depths of 4 km have been reached. It is estimated that around 30% of South Africa’ gold production comes from depths greater than 3 000 metres. 

    There are millions of ounces of gold deeper down. Can we go deeper? Yes we can. Technically it is possible. The greatest obstacles, however, are high costs and the human factor. Great efforts and research are centered on providing safe and a relatively comfortable working environment for miners. 

    Deep level mining technology can, to a certain extent, be compared with space technology. It requires the application of a different set of human skills, but as in aeronautics, the emphasis in mining is on the safety and health of personnel. Both worlds are worlds of men and machines. 

    There are other things they have in common. Many of the disciplines required in building and launching spacecraft are also to be found in mining. In both industries you will find highly qualified engineers, metallurgists, geologists, mechanical, electrical and structural engineers, physical scientists and chemists. There are IT specialists, psychologists, healthcare and legal specialists. 

    Different branches of the same discipline are found in both industries: cryogenics, pneumatics, hydraulics, materials science, dust management, heat and mass transfer, human psychological systems and environmentalists. 

    Spacecraft have picks and shovels, pneumatic drills, compressors, pumps and mini-conveyors on board – basic tools used in mining. 

    You could argue that mining technology is not rocket science. It is true that we can learn a lot from the meticulous way NASA goes about designing safety systems to protect the crews, but a visit to Mintek, CSIR Miningtek, or a uranium of platinum processing plant will serve to prove that miners are backed up by expertise on a par with space exploration. 

    Fatalities at South African mines dropped from 221 in 2007 to 168 by late December 2008 representing a decrease of 23%. Sadly the death toll was already 104 by 21 July this year and many of these accidents were the result of non-compliance on the part of workers as well as management.

    As man goes deeper into the earth, hazards increase. Astronauts in space and miners deep down in mines are working in an unnatural environment. The safety performance of astronauts is superior because compliance with safety regulations and standards are inculcated from the moment they are recruited. In mining, it may not be possible to eliminate accidents that kill, but if everyone is willing to comply with rules that have been made for our safety, we will stay alive.


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