Labour unions representing workers in the mining sector have come out strongly against organisers' failure to invite them to the 2009 Mining Indaba conference held in Cape Town last week.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Cosatu's largest affiliate and the largest labour union in the mining industry representing more than 320000 members nationally, has called the conference the "gathering of the bourgeoisie".
According to NUM, considering the problems the industry is currently facing, such as retrenchments and poor safety records, it was necessary like never before for the unions to participate in this conference.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said: "It is sad that the mining industry and the department of minerals and energy are colluding to form an exclusive club of the rich called the Mining Indaba wherein issues and problems are discussed and solutions passed onto labour."
Seshoka said this after what he called a "contradicting" message was communicated by the department. According to Seshoka, the union drafted the media release on Wednesday following confirmation by Raymond Masetlane, director of mineral economics at the Department of Minerals and Energy during an interview on Kaya FM.
Mosa Mabuza, the acting deputy director general for the Department of Minerals and Energy dismissed the unions' claim stating that the department was only involved as participants and not sponsors.
He said: "Labour unions are key stakeholders in the mining industry and the Mining Indaba is also an ideal opportunity for them to engage with investors.
"The Department of Minerals and Energy participated in it because it was seen as a platform to participate hence the minister delivered the welcome note."
Seshoka responded to this saying: "there is no honesty from the side of government".