Mining companies can longer ignore the impact of mining on surrounding communities. A sunny Tuesday morning, we travel to Canyon Coal’s Phalanndwa Colliery, about 10 km from Delmas, Mpumalanga. Surrounded by other coal mines and communities, Canyon Coal is optimistic about the future of mining, with a focus on value-adding initiatives in the current political and socio-economic landscape.

The mining industry has been clouded by policy uncertainty and a struggling economy. After a briefing on the history of Phalanndwa Colliery, we suit up for the tour, kitted out in ill-fitting boots, safety vests and hard hats, we jump in the bus and bumble through sandy created paths. As we pass heaps of coal stocks, I think about how sustainable growth in mining and benefiting the surrounding communities can be achieved?

General manager Alan Mabbett says they take pride in their contribution to the development and transformation of the Delmas community. The open-cast operation produces bituminous coal that is sold on the local market (30%) and export market (70%), producing about 120000 tons monthly and about 1.4 million tons annually. Although profits remain steady and growth is on the rise, unemployment and other social issues remain a focus. Phalanndwa Colliery prioritises the local community for job opportunities, by developing a social and labour plan and providing bursaries to talented young people from disadvantaged households in the area.

“Community development is an integral part of our business and we see it as a norm than an exception,” says Mabbet.

A highlight was seeing women working on the site and knowing that the company has an almost 20%-women workforce. The company realises that economically empowering the youth and women is the way forward towards achieving sustainable development of the country.

Phalanndwa Colliery runs like a well-oiled machine, despite the community and regulatory challenges, which keep the organisation digging for solutions.

By Nomvelo Chalumbira

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