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Mine closures will take shine off businesses

By Mpho Sibanyoni | 2017-07-03 17:12:30.0

June 30, 2017. Taxi owner Sizwe Mabena says his business has taken a financial knock since Anglo Gold Ashanti closed down one of its shafts. Photo Thulani Mbele © Sowetan

The planned closure of mining operations is likely to leave towns neighbouring Klerksdorp, businesses and communities in dire straits.

Kopanang Mine, which is near Orkney and Klerksdorp, once gave the surrounding areas a boom as most mineworkers bought their goods and services in the towns.

But now that the owners of the mine, Anglo Gold Ashanti, are considering its closure, the two gold mining towns and their economies are in danger.

ALSO READ: Mineworkers face bleak future - Anglo Gold to retrench up to 8500 workers

Taxi owner Michael Macawuka said that after Anglo Gold Ashanti closed down its number one shaft two years ago, his business had also declined significantly.

"Two years ago I used to make a minimum of four trips a day but now I'm making a minimum of two trips.

"Most of my passengers are people who are going to work and if people get retrenched, I will not have customers," said Macawuka who makes R130 from a single load.

He said the planned mothballing of Anglo Gold Ashanti's Kopanang Mine would no doubt affect his taxi business.

"This is the reason why there was a suggestion from our taxi association that routes should be rotated so that all taxis would be given a fair chance to operate in both lucrative and non-performing routes," said Macawuka.

The father of two children has one child who is in high school and another at university.

Venesse Richards, chief executive of the Wesvaal Chamber of Business, said gold mining was declining as more than five mines had closed down within 10 years.

"A lot of our members have been affected by the closure . we haven't done an impact study, [but] we are busy with it.

"But we as a community cannot wait until all the mines close down. We have to invest in other sectors."

Richards said the business community was considering expanding to other sectors of the economy to remain sustainable.

She said that the business chamber, together with the local municipality, had adopted a model that would ensure that the town focuses on agriculture, agro-processing, tourism and manufacturing.

"As a community we need to have a mind-set change because we know the mine is going to close down as mines have a certain life span.

"Someone who supplies protective clothing to mines, for instance, has to think differently and start supplying the product to the farmers," she said.

A local hardware and supermarket manager who preferred to remain anonymous said most of his clients were mineworkers and that retrenchments would have devastating consequences for his business which employs 14 people. "Even businesses that provide low-cost accommodation to mine labourers will not be spared."