Deep pockets

The country’s mining sector is significantly focused on CSI

Deep pockets

A quick scan through the list of companies that disclosed their CSI expenditure in Trialogue’s 2022 Business in Society Handbook makes one thing very clear – the mining sector is a big spender; arguably the biggest. Whereas most companies’ 2021/22 spend is in the single and double digits when it comes to millions of rands, mining firms show almost invariably triple and even quadruple digits.

It makes sense, considering the risks for employees, the sector’s social and environmental impacts, as well as its massive contribution to the country’s GDP.

According to the handbook (the 25th annual edition by ESG consultants Trialogue), of the total CSI spend by participating companies across all sectors, the vast majority went into education (44%), followed by social and community development (13%), food security and agriculture (10%), entrepreneur and small business support (8%) and, finally, disaster relief (8%).

While the report does not specify the priorities of the mining sector, a perusal of the development focus areas suggest that most companies prioritised education, health, economic (job creation and enterprise support) and the environment.

Of course, in 2020/21 a large chunk of mining sector CSI spend went towards PPE, COVID-19 transmission-reduction protocols and vaccinations, but now the focus is on repairing the damage, rebuilding and addressing more perennial problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Over the past 12 to 18 months, Sasol has launched two new programmes, adding to its extensive range of existing initiatives tackling education outcomes, economic inclusion (as at 30 June 2022, Sasol reported spend of R33.6 billion with black-owned suppliers), health services and infrastructure.

‘Bridge to Work, or BtW, is a portfolio of programmes that aim to improve access to economic opportunities for the youth, women and unemployed adults in its fenceline communities in Mpumalanga, Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal by providing vocational training and skills development in the areas of agriculture, motor mechanics, welding, technology and digital development, among others,’ says Charlotte Mokoena, executive VP of HR and stakeholder relations at Sasol.

BtW includes the Iphepe Sasol Farmer Development programme, which has funded the training of 99 young local emerging and subsistence farmers from Gert Sibande municipality, in order for them to gain technical, financial and business skills. On completion of their training, these emerging farmers will be mentored and assisted to set up their farming enterprises. In August, as part of this stage of the programme, Sasol handed over 285 ha of agricultural land to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to support the further development of emerging farmers. The programme has benefited more than 300 emerging farmers to date.

‘We’re particularly proud of our Envirowaste programme,’ says Mokoena. This pre-existing programme, established circa 2018, covers various elements of waste management. ‘In the past year, the programme continued to rehabilitate dumping hotspots, transforming them into food gardens.

‘More than 12 000 households have benefited from the programme, with over five kilotons of general waste diverted from leaking into the environment annually. The initiative has also created up to 80 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs and employment opportunities for the community at eMbalenhle and Lebohang.

‘Three local waste-management start-ups have been adopted by the programme and are being mentored to become sustainable contributors to environmental protection efforts in the community,’ she says.

According to a Trialogue case study, Anglo American Platinum’s post-COVID needs assessments revealed that in SA and Zimbabwe poverty increased significantly, rural education outcomes remained poor with low literacy levels and limited support for secondary school learners, further job losses exacerbated high unemployment rates and a dramatic increase in cases of gender-based violence (GBV). The company approved R400 million in 2021 to extend its social investment, with specific recovery-related allocations towards food support to vulnerable households, student bursaries, water and sanitation in schools, job creation, and GBV prevention and support. Anglo American is a co-founder – in conjunction with Exxaro, the CSIR, the Industrial Development Corporation, Mine Water Co-ordinating Body and World Vision South Africa – of the Impact Catalyst, an initiative that seeks to drive large-scale, socio-economic development initiatives through public-private partnerships.

One of the projects Exxaro is partnering in, according to Trialogue, is the Community Wi-Fi and Schools Network Connectivity initiative in Lephalale, Belfast, Kriel and Matla, where some 37 schools and 14 community centres were identified to benefit from the Impact Catalyst solutions, with the potential to have an impact on around 42 000 users.

Another project in the Impact Catalyst’s pipeline is centred on the Mutale community in Limpopo. ‘Efforts to re-establish the local community economically pursuant to the closure of Exxaro’s Tshikondeni coal mine in 2014 have been delayed,’ reports Trialogue. ‘Exxaro and the Impact Catalyst are assisting subsistence farmers from the area to become commercially successful. In this regard, 25 local farmers who were initially identified have already been activated in the supply chain of corporate during the Mutale Agri project’s pilot phase. Another 47 farmers have since been assessed and will be included in the expansion of this project.’

There is also an opportunity to develop 300 ha of land for citrus and upskill local farmers for the citrus commodity, aligning them for access to markets, creating up to 200 direct and 400 induced jobs.

For Harmony Gold, the implementation of its socio-economic development strategy is influenced directly by the needs communicated by host communities.

‘In South Africa for instance, we are approaching the end of our third-generation – 2018 to 2023 – social and labour plans with a total financial spend thus far of R433 million, of which R235 million was invested in socio-economic upliftment through our mine community development programmes,’ says Max Manoeli, brand manager of group communications at Harmony Gold.

Some of Harmony Gold’s recent CSI initiatives, says Manoeli, include the renovations of clinics in its mine communities, the construction and renovation of outdoor facilities and buildings to support early childhood development, providing support to youth centres with laptops to assist learners with tertiary institution applications, bursary and scholarship applications, as well as providing assistance to unemployed youth by connecting them with recruitment agencies, government agencies and businesses.

In his personal capacity, Patrice Motsepe – chairman of Harmony Gold and founder and chair of African Rainbow Minerals – became the first African to sign the Giving Pledge in 2013, an initiative created by Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates that seeks to convince the world’s super-wealthy to dedicate half their fortune to philanthropy. This pledge continues today through the Motsepe Foundation, which runs programmes addressing a multitude of development goals, from education to infrastructure to the arts.

‘The mining industry continues to make significant investments in socio-economic development programmes,’ according to Manoeli. ‘Our corporate social investment goes beyond compliance. It is an additional commitment we make to uplift and improve the livelihoods of our mine communities.’

By Robyn Maclarty
Image: Gallo/Getty Images