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September 2008


Mining bosses agree that safety is of paramount importance in the industry and over the past few years they have come together to find ways to ensure that there is zero tolerance towards injury and death in the mining industry.

Nobody can deny that mining takes place in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions, but every effort must be made by all who are involved, from the highest to the lowest employees in the industry, to ensure that mining is as safe as possible. 

A number of recent initiatives have been implemented, these include the MOSH (Mine Occupational Safety and Health) endeavours, a chamber of Mines’ Seismicity Study, and a CEO round table. 

The industry first committed itself to improving its record at the 2003 Mine Health and Safety Summit where the sector undertook to achieve occupational health and safety targets and 10-year milestones agreed to at the summit. Unfortunately the industry has not been able to reach the goals it has set itself and will have to improve by a massive 28% year-on-year to achieve the 2013 targets. The only sector that is achieving its stated targets is the coal sector. 

Research undertaken amongst group executives and leaders on the mines in 2007, indicates that leadership behaviour and leadership communications can change the culture of the work environment and go a long way towards achieving the objectives of zero harm. The MOSH strategy builds upon these insights, providing guidelines for adoption of best practices for reducing dust and noise exposure. 

The industry is increasing its effort and recently held a CEO round table, brining together industry leaders to discuss a number of safety issues. High on the agenda of initiatives is how best individual companies can learn from each others’ successes and failures. It is hoped that this sharing of knowledge will reap improved safety performances. 

The MOSH Best Practice Adoption System aims to facilitate widespread adoption of knowledge, technology and practice to improve health and safety performance in our country’s mines. The adoption teams interact widely to identify best practice and technology. 

The MOSH adoption teams acknowledge that to assist in the widespread adoption and success of the adoption system, it is critical to address the health gap, to create clear and simple ways of communication, to give all stakeholders a sense of ownership and to have clear objectives. 

Another Chamber initiative is the adoption of best practices. Although best practice knowledge is shared amongst industry players, the best ways of adopting these practices are not always common knowledge and it is thus important that companies share their adoption practices. In companies where best practice adoption has been implements, there has been as much as a 20% improvement in falls of ground, noise and dust injuries. 

Seismicity is a very difficult risk to manage as many local mines are at the depth of three of more kilometers. The Chamber’s study on this aspect of mining involved an international panel that looked at aspects such as new technology, management, leadership and rock engineering. The study is nearly completed and it is hoped that its recommendations will help to improve the country’s mining safety record.


Sustainable job creation is the key to reducing poverty and turning around high unemployment figures in the country.

Living gold, one of the Agrihold companies owned by Gold Fields, today employs 320 full-time employees, 80% of whom are women. The company has also trained about 650 people in growing, harvesting, sorting and packaging roses for overseas markets. The Living Gold roses have become an international brand and are now accredited by the German Flower Label Programme (FIP). The FIP audits Living Gold’s operations regularly, covering all aspects of rose production including the company’s social and environmental track records. 

Living Gold has an on-site propagation unit and here rose stents, which involve binding roses together to create the ideal hybrids for market, are created by hand. 

Precious Silinda has worked with the company since it stated and she is responsible fro sorting and packaging the roses destined for markets abroad. ‘I was unemployed before because there are not many jobs in this area,’ she says of the poverty that has hit hard in this peri-urban area. 

Her colleague, Daphne Mothupi, who comes from the Fryburg area, has worked for the company for eight months. She worked as a tuck shop owner before, but she says Living Gold offers better opportunities for her. 

Silinda and Mothupi say they hope that as Living Gold expands more jobs will be created for the communities around the mine and that salaries and working conditions will also improve. 

Vishnu Pillay, who takes over as Gold Fields local executive vice-president and head of South African, Australian and West African operations in September, says: ‘This project was done with long-term sustainability in mind and to ensure broad-based economic empowerment and poverty alleviation, we don’t want to leave areas like this as ghost towns when the mines eventually close. We had approved the Living Gold project even before the Mining Charter was formalized in 2002.’ 

Agrihold’s other interests include Golden Oils and AquaGold. Golden Oils is a so-called bio-prospecting venture. This means flowers and other plants are grown and tested for their ability to yield oils, powders and other useful extracts that can be marked and sold. 

Golden Oils has already developed a growing and screening facility near Beatrix Mine in Virginia. It has a subsidiary company called Aloe Co, which aims to use the positive healing and antioxidant properties of the aloe plant in skin creams and other preparations. 

Agrihold’s AquaGold venture is an aquacultural business. This business is still in its research and feasibility study stage but if it works, will involve fish farming and the processing of fish products in places like the Katse and Mohale dams, which are parts of the Lesotho Highlands water scheme.


Flowers may be the last things that come to mind when you think of mining, but Gold Fields’ Living Gold project is beginning to bloom.

It has been nearly five years since Living Gold started its rose growing and propagation facility in the Carltonville area and it looks set to start seeing real profits in the next years. 

However, the primary aim fro Gold Fields in forming the company, Agrihold, was to find sustainable operations like Living Gold, which are independent from mining that could directly benefit local economic development, Agri-business is considered one of the important growth sector for the country right now. 

Paddy Govender, Gold Fields’ vice president for commercial services, says: ‘Agrihold focuses on noncore enterprises from floriculture, like Living Gold, bio-prospecting and aquaculture using South African natural strategic advantage.’ 

The mining house has, since 2003, invested R100 million into the Living Gold venture and is now looking to find new partners to raise an additional R50-million to boost the business and take it to its next level. Gold Fields is expected to invest around another R10-million into the business in the next year. It holds 65% of Living Gold and the government agency, the Industrial Development Corporation, holds the remaining 35%. More than 80 million roses have been exported around the world, including Japan, Sweden, Australia and the United States

Govender says that if the venture secures the extra investment it can create another six hectares of hothouses in addition to the existing 10 hectares of climate-controlled growing facilities, and this will allow the business to expand and create more jobs. 

Living Gold has diversified its offerings over the years. Agrihold chief executive, Fred Formanek, explains that while they started off just growing roses for the export market they have now added new products to meet new demands. 

‘We watch global trends very carefully. Things like the length of stems and the colour of roses that are most popular at any one time, change all the time. We have started growing potted roses that in Europe are preferred over carnations and cyclamens and we make mixed flower bouquets for the various markets,’ says Formanek. 

Formanek adds that this approach of adding value to the products is a direct way to beneficiate their products. Expanding on the cut flower business has also seen the rise of a new side to the business, which buys flowers from local and African flower farmers to create bouquets for local supermarkets and for export. 


In a remarkable act of generosity, prominent conservationists and philanthropists, Nicky and Strilli Oppenheimer, of E Oppenheimer and son and De Beers, have donated the 4500-hectare Ezemvelo Nature Reserve near Bronkhorstspruit, to Maharishi institute. The aim is to promote environmental and conservation-related education to youth in South Africa, to develop a rural eco-campus, as well as promote eco-tourism, and conservation of the beautiful nature heritage of Ezemvelo (the name means ‘back to Nature’). 

The official handover of Ezemvelo was celebrated at Maharishi Institute in Johannesburg, hosted by Mr and Mrs Oppenheimer together with the directors of the Maharishi Institute. 

Ezemvelo is a Nature Reserve one hour north east of O.R. Tambo Airport, 20 km outside Bronkhorstspruit. Ezemvelo Nature Reserve is situated on the Bankenveld, which is the transition ecotone between the grassland and savanna biomes. Ecologically this is valuable as elements of both biomes occur within the reserve, creating rich biology diversity. Young South Africans Experiencing our South African Natural Heritage Guests include members of the conservation fraternity, and students of the institute comprising mainly school-leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds who are learning practical business and life skills. More than 100 of these students have already enjoyed structure leadership camps at Ezemvelo.


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