The coal industry and communities

Coal mining [photo] To be productive, safe, responsible and sustainable, the coal mining industry must live alongside thriving communities. Healthy community relationships, although complex, can and have been rewarding to the coal mining industry and its host communities.

Coal mining companies, in collaboration with national and local government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and community leaders have honoured their commitment to improving the lives of host community members through sustainable development initiatives and capital contributions to targeted projects.

Projects include but are not limited to:

  • Infrastructure development: building bridges, roads, hospitals and schools
  • Health care services
  • Local economic development including small business development and supporting local suppliers and entrepreneurs

The coal industry, in its own capacity and through its supply chain, makes a significant effort to award historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs) and qualified BEE candidates with beneficial contracts.

Engaging with communities and partnerships

In line with South African mining industry norms, the coal mining industry does not believe that community contributions and projects should be dictated by companies. A great amount of time and energy is put into ensuring that the relevant community members participate in aligning coal mining industry and government priorities with community aspirations

Community development plans and spend are frequently assessed to ensure that the desired outcomes have been achieved and that adverse impacts (if any) are adequately managed.

Social and labour plans and social licence to operate

Social and labour plans (SLPs) are one of industry’s most effective community empowerment mechanisms. SLPs are formal documents submitted to the DMR for approval and monitoring progress. They indicate the resources that companies have dedicated to reaching five-year targets socio-economic targets in their host communities and amongst their employee base. SLPs are a requirement for a company to maintain its mining licence.

The funds allocated to SLP expenditure are intended to make a tangible difference in community members lives and in conjunction with other corporate social investment, engagement and opportunities, are meant to provide mines with their social licence to operate (SLO). A SLO is the level of acceptance or approval by local communities and stakeholders of mining companies and their operations and is a critical success factor for all mines.

Job creation and education

Contributions are made through financial resource allocation (as outlined in SLPs or other CSI projects) and in providing opportunities for education or career development. In 2018 the coal mining industry employed 81,962 people and paid R24 billion in wages and salaries. The jobs created and the salaries earned by employees are redistributed throughout communities and strengthen local businesses. Educational support is provided to suitable candidates at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Mines also provide skills development training and learnerships. Scholarships and bursaries are used to address the skills shortage in the mining industry. Suitable candidates are provided with scholarships, internships or apprenticeships before finally joining companies as a permanent employee. Many of these students come from local communities.

Cultural heritage and access to natural resources

Mining has a direct impact on the environment. Without adequate management, mining operations could have adverse impacts on communities, such as limiting access to water resources and traditional heritage sites, and exposing them to pollution and/or dust. The coal mining industry goes to great lengths to mitigate negative consequences faced by communities because of mining activities. In some instances mines and communities have worked together to preserve South Africa’s rich natural heritage. Mines have also created environmental management initiatives that provide employment to local community members and help protect the environment.