Locals must benefit from mining, says Turok

SEEKING REDRESS: Professor Ben Turok has lashed out at mining companies that imported engineers from Europe when graduates with the same skills locally were unemployed. PHOTO: Terry Shean
SEEKING REDRESS: Professor Ben Turok has lashed out at mining companies that imported engineers from Europe when graduates with the same skills locally were unemployed. PHOTO: Terry Shean

Economics Professor and ANC Member of Parliament Ben Turok has called for the overhauling of South Africa's mining legislation in favour of locals instead of foreign-owned mining companies.

Speaking at a mining conference organised by the Bench Marks Foundation, Turok said Minister of Minerals Susan Shabangu, the custodian of mineral wealth, should start imposing strict preconditions on all mining licences to benefit South Africans.

"We should never have allowed Lonmin and other mining companies to work the way they are doing," he said.

He slated mining companies that imported engineers from Europe when graduates with the same skills locally were unemployed.

He said the government should scrutinise the value-chain of mining and come up with ways in which local businesses and workers could gain maximum benefit.

Turok added that mining companies should no longer be allowed to make workers continue living in squalid conditions.

"Filthy living conditions like shacks and hostels should no longer be allowed," he said.

"We need a new paradigm shift in mining on how it will benefit our people."

He also said it was not sustainable for South Africa to prioritise markets, especially when making decisions that will impact on the economy.

"Market forces are important but we cannot leave the empowering of our people to markets. In Marikana, for instance, markets failed to intervene when the people were being shot and killed," he said.

He mentioned three policy proposals the state could implement for the mining industry to develop the local economy.

He said the country could either impose heavy taxes on mining companies, not tax foreign companies or examine how the country could benefit from the mining value chain.

Turok said South Africa should come up with ideas on how it could beneficiate chrome into stainless steel.

"It does not make sense to dig up chrome in South Africa, send it to China because it provides cheaper electricity for smelting, and then buy back the finished product at a more expensive rate," he said.

He also tore into South Africa's fiscal monetary policy and suggested that it was not benefitting locals.

"Our economists use theories that we don't understand, which focus on fiscal and monetary policy," he said, adding that the country's economic policy should be centred on developing ordinary.

"Our economic policy encourages us to be a good housewife, like Margaret Thatcher, and not spend more than what you do not earn," said Turok as delegates erupted with laughter.

The monetary policy concept is bedazzling our economists and empowering our people comes as an after-thought, he said.

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