Nominated for the Public Eye People’s Award 2013
von Groundwork / Friends of the Earth South Africa, www.groundwork.org.za
The deadly arm of the platinum rush: managers of the world’s third largest mining concern Lomin urged the South African mining ministeryto take «appropriate» measures against striking mine workers at the Marika mine—with the help of the police or the army. A short time later, 34 protesting mine worker were shot dead by the police, 78 more were seriously wounded, 10 more died during the protests. Many of the victims were about to surrender after the police had fired into the crowd with rubber bullets. The police gave no warning before they started shooting with live ammunition. One day after the massacre, Lonmin threatened all workers who continued to strike with dismissal. The workers had stopped work because Lonmin managers had repeatedly failed to show up for wage negotiations, even though management was well aware of the hard and dangerous working conditions and the widespread poverty in the miners’ slums. The wages of many miners are not enough for a dignified life. Lonmin clearly stops at nothing as it exploits people and the land in South Afrika.
- Head Office: Johannesburg, Südafrika
- Industry: Bergbau
- Revenue/net profit: $ 2 billion / $ 311 million
- Owned by: publicly owned, 25% in hands of Xstrata, subsidiary of Anglo-American Anglo American
- Employees: 28’000
- President, Board of Directors: Roger Phillimore
- CEO: Ian Farmer
- Website: www.lonmin.com
Irresponsible Corporate Behavior
Lonmin is an economically very powerful player that does not live up to its responsibilities neither towards its workers, nor to the community or the environment. Instead, against better knowledge, it relentlessly perpetuates and even exacerbates the desolate living conditions in the area in which it operates. Lonmin is clearly connected to the fatal shootings and thus bears at least some responsibility for the massacre and the protest’s horrendous death toll.
Hewers who work in narrow drifts and miserable conditions underground, wielding 25kg hammer drills, began the strike on August 10, 2012 10. August 2012. Even though they cannot stand upright while working, they have to press their heavy tools against the rock with all their might. In mine disasters, hewers are most frequently among the victims. Theirs is the most dangerous job in the mining sector and they don’t make enough from it to live.
As the world's leading producer of platinum and one of the top gold producers, South Africa has become the richest nation in Africa in recent years. Still, the country has over 25% unemployment. Protests against shortages in housing, electricity, running water, as well as poor education and health services occur on an almost daily basis. The miserable living conditions of the Lonmin platinum miners are a reflection of the deep inequalities that still pervade this society 18 years after the end of apartheid. Their shantytown consists of run-down shacks on a dusty plain outside the mine, lacking running water and electricity. The miners can not afford anything more on the abysmal salaries they bring home after laboring in the nearby mine.
Lonmin was well aware of the problems and the anger within the miners’ community. In 2011 and 2012, miners and the community at the Lonmin mine in Marikana have shown their anger at the company by partaking in violent protests. The Bench Marks Foundation in their 2012 report “Policy Gap 6: Communities in the platinum minefields“ highlights the following as issues of concern:
- Worker health and safety: During 2010 the mine had 3 fatal accidents, and this had doubled by January 2011. There is a high reliance on contract workers and this can be highlighted as a contributing factor to unsafe working conditions. Residential living conditions for miners are usually informal and shack settlements or deteriorating formal housing which do not have adequate infrastructure and systems in place, such as electricity and proper sanitation/sewage facilities. Residents, and particularly children, showed symptoms of chronic illnesses related to drainage systems spills that have been occurring for five years despite residents reporting the situation to Lonmin. Schools built by Lonmin in the past were made of asbestos, and these are still used by the community and not replaced by the company with toxic-free buildings.
- Local employment: In 2011, as a result of a union dispute which caused unsanctioned walk-offs by miners, Lonmin fired 9 000 of its employees because they were disrupting output at the platinum operations. These ex-employees then also lost their housing. Residents feel that Lonmin does not employ a majority of local people from Marikana. Another employment opportunity, a brick-making facility, was cancelled when Lonmin found it to be unfeasible.
- Corporate social responsibility project: a multi-million rand hydroponics project employed 120 people in the community but soon collapsed. The company claims it spends huge amounts on corporate social investment and corporate social responsibility, but very little evidence of this is seen in the community itself.
The mine increasingly buys productive farm land for its operations. Farmers are often isolated and the value of their land decreasing as they become surrounded by mines and slime dams. Land that is discarded by the Lonmin is left vacant and unused. The increasing number of slime dams being built are having devastating effects on the surface water. Lonmin and two other mining companies own 90% of the Buffelspoort Dam despite its being designated for agricultural use. The Sterkstroom River is heavily polluted as a result of poor water management systems, slime dams and non-functional sewage systems upstream. Squatter camps spring up on unproductive land, creating an influx in population and consequently putting pressure on the area’s infrastructure. A number of social challenges – crime, prostitution, social disintegration and communicable diseases (TB and HIV/AIDS) – are rampant in the area. The mine pays miners a ‘sleeping-out’[?] allowance to find ‘decent’ accommodation but instead they live in shacks and send the rest of the money home or spend it on local entertainment. The process of free, prior and informed consent is largely ignored or hindered by the mine, and Lonmin employs a barrage of sophisticated consultants to undertake EIAs, SLPs and Feasibility Studies. These are often kept hidden from the farmers and other affected parties. EIAs for certain projects have been resisted by the company, and they do not train people towards creating a more sustainable area.
Current State and Demands to the Company
Lonmin must raise the monthly minimum pay for workers at the platinum mine in South Africa to a living wage! The world's third largest platinum producer must also live up to its responsibilities towards its workers, the community and the environment.
The brutal history of South Africa’s Platinum Industry – Gavin Capps (Amandla!)
Mine violence a trend in the platinum belt – Lisa Steyn (The Mail and Guardian)
Dashiki dialogues: Living lessons from Lonmin – Percy Mabandu (The City Press)
The irony of Lonmin – an award-winning sustainable investment – Maximilian Puchulik (The Daily Maverick)
Yawning gap between Lonmin and communities – Faranaaz Parker (The Mail and Guardian)
Policy Gap 6: Communities in the platinum minefields – The Bench Marks Foundation (pdf report)
Another useful link (not used in submission above):
What the Marikana massacre tells us – Shawn Hattingh (The Anarchist News)