A Unique Chinese/South African Mining Venture Working Towards a Sustainable Mining Future
04 May 2013
The continuing challenge in South Africa's mining sector of addressing Level 1 skills shortages, combined with the need to develop essential core skills to ensure a future pipeline of qualified, experienced and highly skilled people, is one that recent industry entrant, Wesizwe Platinum Limited, has practically addressed over the past 12 months. This JSE-listed mining Group, whose flagship project, the development of the Bakubung Platinum Mine located on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex north of Rustenburg in the North West Province, is funded[HM1] by a combination of original equity funding for the project to the tune of US$ 207 million, together with a unique US$ 650 million long-term loan from the China Development Bank and supported by Chinese strategic partner, China Africa Jinchuan Investments Limited (CAJIL). Wesizwe has recognised the need to find long-term, effective solutions to address South Africa's skills shortages and has embarked upon a number of new skills development initiatives that will benefit not only its own project portfolio, both now and in the future, but also young people from the local community and the mining industry as a whole. Over the past year, the company has accelerated its training programmes aimed at young people, continuing with initiatives such as a bursary programme for young learners at University level, and a learnership programme in the field of maths and science education.
Wesizwe remains highly committed to the development of its human resources in the Group and over the past 12 months, its HRD expenditure as a percentage of pay-roll was significantly higher than the Mining Charter, demonstrating its genuine commitment to skills development and emphasizing the corporate focus on developing future skills needs. This commitment to supporting transformation in the mining sector is reflected in its introduction during mid-2012 of a number of much-needed apprenticeship programmes aimed at developing critical engineering skills and upskilling young people in the local Bakubung community. Wesizwe, in partnership with AVENG Mining, launched a new 4-year programme offering engineering skills training opportunities for registered apprentices with MERSETA (Metal and Engineering Related Section Education Training Authority), at an annual cost for all learners of R2 132 072. The final programme outcome is a Department of Higher Education NQF 4 National Qualification (Trade). The company's first intake of 12 learners[HM2] [BR3] was selected following a process that included advertisement of the learning opportunity in the local community, two levels of skills assessment and also a medical assessment. Importantly in terms of transformation objectives and targets, 25% of the learners selected for this new apprenticeship programme are female. In the short period in training undertaken, these young apprentices have shown great character and demonstrated a real willingness to learn new skills and acquire the specialist industry knowledge required for a bright future career in the mining sector. As a responsible and caring company, Wesizwe is extremely proud of the achievements of these young trainees, many of which have been subsequently recognised for top academic achievement in their respective trade classes. They represent a very good start to the apprenticeship programme and one that also encourages both the sponsors and learners to continue to remain committed in skills development, albeit from different perspectives.
Commenting on the achievements and commitment shown by these new apprentices on the programme, Wesizwe Acting Executive for Human Resources, Ms. Basetsana Ramaboa said:
"On behalf of the Wesizwe management team, we are humbled by the achievement of our apprentices so early in their learning journey. It demonstrates to all of us that given an opportunity and armed with self-belief and a positive attitude, our humble beginnings or background should not stop us from fulfilling our ambitions in life. These young apprentices are good ambassadors for such a new training and development programme in the mining sector, we congratulate them and wish them the best in their future careers".
As a further commitment to addressing the transformation and skills upliftment challenges in the mining sector, Wesizwe has also over the past year provided academic bursary support to three young learners at University level who gained admission for their studies at different Universities around Gauteng. However, only two of these learners have successfully completed their highly rigorous study path to date and remain on the programme today. Wesizwe is proud to see the integration of its bursars into formal employment, and in particular to welcome one of these talented bursars into the Wesizwe Platinum Group on a full-time basis. [BR4] Linda Sithole graduated from Rhodes University with a BSc Honours in degree in Geology[HM5] and is now a full-time employee of the company and on the path to an exciting mining career in the future.
Over the last 12 months, Wesizwe has also provided support to five learners on the Edumap programme, three of which are female. This 12-month enrichment programme affords learners with the opportunity to improve their Maths and Science academic results, enhance their life skills, improve their Matric result (re- examination) and importantly position themselves more favourably to continue with higher learning studies. Edumap College is located within Jeppe High School premises which, for many of the learners, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be exposed to, or learn at, world-class facilities. The programme is targeted at the transition phase between Grade 12 and 1st year University, providing the students with better prospects of completing their academic studies. The EDUMAP College graduates also have the advantage of early admission at the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria or Witwatersrand. This is as a result of their past academic track record and life skills programmes which are recognized by these learning institutions. The College specifically targets underprivileged students from poor communities. In all the learning programmes supported by Wesizwe, the company provides a full bursary until graduation[HM6] at a cost of R66 480 per learner per year. [BR7] All the learner is required to do under this bursary initiative is to focus on their studies and improve their individual academic performance.
As part of its transformation commitment, a wide range of additional skills training opportunities have been created for members of the local communities located close to Wesizwe's Bakubung Platinum Mine project site. The intention is to collectively improve the lives of local learners in partnership with other institutions to deliver SMME, First Aid, ABET training programmes and many more. At Wesizwe, there is a considerable appreciation for the day-to-day challenges faced by local communities. As a result, the company has appealed to its broad base of learners to make full use of the available training opportunities and complete their scheduled training programmes in order to fulfill their potential and enhance their employment prospects. Wesizwe has limited skills development resources and is therefore keen to ensure a maximum return on investment for the learning experiences created. The company continues to look at different ways of enhancing its skills training programmes and initiatives to positively impact both on its own operations and local communities, and in particular the unemployed youth of the local area. Considering that Wesizwe's Bakubung Platinum Mine will only be in production phase in 2018 and it is not yet generating mining revenue, the company's skills investment programme is living proof of its commitment to transformation of the mining industry sector and local skills development.
Wesizwe Platinum's commitment to local recruitment at its flagship Bakubung Platinum Mine project has resulted in a total local workforce percentage of 33.1% at the end of 2012, representing local contractor staff, i.e. those located both locally to the Ledig area and within the 50km radius of the Bakubung Platinum Mine site. The local headcount as at mid April 2013 was 168 within a 50km radius and 158 from the local Ledig area, representing a total of 326. However, as with any construction site, some of the local employment opportunities created are temporary in nature, but recognising this factor, various strategies have been developed to mitigate against this situation or to ensure the creation of the most sustainable employment opportunities in the future.
As a unique company in the country's mining sector, Wesizwe appreciates the history of South Africa and the mining industry regarding past imbalances which excluded historically disadvantaged communities, women and people with disabilities from participation in the mainstream of the economy. As the company continues to develop and grow, and as it prepares itself to develop and commission the Bakubung Platinum Mine in 2018, it is now formalising its Employment Equity processes and frameworks. To date, the organisation is on target to deliver on its EE scorecard consistent with the Mining Charter. The future looks promising, both for Wesizwe and for the local community in terms of local economic growth and future job creation potential.
Hamlet Morule, Executive: Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations