According to Alan Mabbet, the general manager of Phalanndwa Colliery, managing stakeholders sometimes takes up more time than attending to actual operations of a mine. Phalanndwa is an open cast coal mining operation in Delmas, Mpumalanga; wholly owned by Canyon Mining Services (Pty) Ltd. The operation has a mine life of a year, excluding an extension, which could add another 8 years.

The relationship between mines and the regulator in S.A remains unease. The sector is said to be consumed by ‘regulatory and policy uncertainty’, which weighed on investment and activity in the domestic mining sector. However, Canyon coal believes in a brighter future for domestic coal mining. They maintain that the tensions between mining houses and communities can be solved by giving communities stakes in mining companies. Mabbet explained that the increasing demands from interest groups such as labour and community ‘forums’ add to the woes of the industry. Even more concerning is the unclear structures of these community-based groups and infighting within them, which often makes it a challenge for mines to clearly understand the grievances of the community. In addition to stakeholder-related challenges, coal mines in the Delmas area are fighting a surge in coal and diesel theft.

Phalanndwa continues to champion the rights of women. Mabbet explained that contrary to popular believe of inferior output from females, the quality of work between the two genders in his operation is virtually the same; he added that some of his best operators are female. Nevertheless, the dwellings near the mine still show without a doubt the extreme level of poverty that the communities (and most part of the country) have to endure, despite all the ‘empowerment’ from the private sector. Although sometimes misguided and expressed unacceptably, the poor have valid frustrations which should not be overlooked.

By Amon Moleko

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