Mining Mechanisation – Ten Years On

July 13, 2009

Ten years ago saw the successful introduction of a low profile electro-hydraulic mechanised drill rig, Sandvik’s Axera LP Drill, specifically designed for application in South African narrow reef hard rock mining. This completed the process of mechanising chrome mining in South Africa’s Bushveld complex, a programme that started in 1985 with the introduction of the first Load Haul Dumpers on chrome mines in Rustenburg. The Axera LP Drill became one of the most commercially successful machines introduced in the South African mining industry.

By 2005, South Africans chrome mines were producing 70% of total ore output of 700k tons per month, utilising machines. Technically this revolution, after previous unsuccessful attempts at mechanisation was spectacular and had a major impact on the successful implementation of mechanised mining in the platinum industry, so much so, that the total tonnage derived from mechanised mining in platinum mines has grown from zero in 1990 to 1.5 million tons per month by 2008. Production costs of mechanised chrome ore have become very competitive and it is now the preferred production method, it is no coincidence that the some of the cheapest platinum producers, Aquarius and Mototolo, are also mechanised. Add to the benefits mentioned the favourable safety impact of mechanised mining and the choice seems very obvious and straightforward and the visionaries who single-mindedly promoted and implemented mechanisation may be forgiven for feeling smug when looking at their achievements.

Taking a more holistic and detached view of the unfolding process, it is easy to question the astuteness with which our heroes set about the task of replacing men with machines in South African mines. With the current, unacceptably high levels of unemployment in the country, the wisdom of mechanisation in mines must be considered along other socio-economic factors that drive employment, wealth creation and other factors creating value to society. Mining, along with agriculture and manufacturing remains one of the biggest employers in South Africa and anything that has a negative effect on employment opportunities will, quite rightly, be questioned. Fortunately, the visionaries responsible for mechanisation do not have to feel alone in their guilt, government policy and trade unions did more than their fair share of job destruction and contributed more to the destruction of jobs. Unfortunately they wrap their contribution in righteous packages, wrapped up as “Rights of the oppressed and exploited worker” and “Transformation of an unfair society”, giving them the moral right to destroy jobs.

In most normal market driven economies, the move from man to machine follows a set route. The typical road map starts with an oversupply of labour, manually producing products of value. As production increases, unemployment drops, wages goes up resulting in thinner margins and the search for more efficient production methods, inevitably machines. Skills improve to suit the machines and the cycle repeats. In the case of socially engineered economies, especially the less sophisticated ones like South Africa, machines can enter the production process for very different, and often wrong, reasons.

The politically correct motivation for machanisation of South African mines has been improved safety, decent jobs, up-skilling of employees improved salaries the loss of traditional skills because of HIV/Aids and the low-esteem in which the mining industry is held, globally and especially in South Africa, as an employer. I often think people consider mining as a small step ahead of the noble pursuit of sewer engineering. Truth however is, despite the negative perceptions of mining, perpetuated by the ANC Alliance, and their obsession with so called “decent and meaningful” jobs, millions are still prepared to work in mines for market driven wages, a view reinforced by the recent exposure of the extent of illegal mining activities in defunct mines.

It is however not a coincidence that the mechanisation  initiatives in the South African mining industry coincided with the liberalisation of labour law and the rise of black trade unionism on the mines. That chrome mines, despite their relatively low profitability, became leaders in mechanisation is also no coincidence. Chrome mines were always beset by highly volatile markets and wildly oscillating price curves, with the commensurate fluctuation of labour requirements. They recognised the potential opportunity proffered by mechanisation to effectively counter the potential crippling cost of retrenchments and disruption associated with it. Power of machines meant less power to radical unions. Higher skilled people not only meant higher pay, but also higher productivity and less hidden cost associated with a large lowly skilled but powerful workforce. The combination of out-of-control input cost, driven largely by the labour component, unreliable output levels and the physical threat to life and property, posed by militant and highly politicised trade unions, made for a compelling argument in favour of mechanised operations.

Government policy and trade unions must accept a large proportion of causal blame for this economic anomaly. By turning an industry, which should be the backbone of our economy, into a pariah industry, stigmatising it as an “enemy of the people” on par with the apartheid regime and the National party, was irresponsible and devoid of truth and reason, but possibly understandable. It is unforgivable for union leaders and people in government to persist with the perpetuation of that myth at this point of our history, thus continuing the fostering of distrust. To suggest that mining companies are singularly obsessed with the exploitation of workers borders on economic “hate-speech”. The single-minded objective to create a protected competition-free workplace at any cost cannot be tolerated any longer. As long as these “heroes of the poor”, with the active support of government, persists with this madness, jobs will be destroyed and poverty will increase.

It is estimated that the mechanisation of chrome and platinum mines resulted in the loss of at least five thousand conventional jobs in the last eight years. This loss in jobs could have been bigger, had it not been for the slow rate of skills development. The lack of adequate skills has been the single-most critical constraint in the rapid advance of low-profile mechanised mining.

In the mean time, initiatives to turn resources into profit will drive the innovators to find solutions. As things stand, the mechanisation of ultra low, flat dipping, ore-bodies are well advanced and requires skill development and fine tuning before it will inevitably, become the stoping method of choice in platinum mines. Continues Rock Cutting is far advanced and current unrealistic wage demands puts a smile on the faces of the pioneers of this groundbreaking, pardon the pun, technology.

To correct the situation whilst creating a competitive business environment a change in attitude by stakeholders are required. I am not advocating a free-for-all attitude bur rather a joint strategic approach focused on realistic market related wages and the best mining techniques, taking in consideration technical aspects, sound business principles and socioeconomic requirements.  To survive in a competitive world we need to be competitive and smart, face up and understand mistakes, and as stakeholders commit to elevating the South African mining industry to global leadership.


Application For Membership

July 10, 2009

                                                                                                            July 4, 2009

The President

Association of Mine Managers of South Africa

PO Box 61709
Marshalltown 2107

Dear Sir,

Application for Membership (Class – Ordinary)

I wish to apply to become a member of your esteemed organisation. There is however a number of issues I need to clarify. Your constitution clearly states the requirements for ordinary membership but there may be a few grey areas in my case. Let me explain.

I am manager of a mine in the Free State, Elands Mine, an operation you may be familiar with since we have been, like many other mining operations the world over and particularly in South Africa, on the receiving end of some negative and, may I say, unfair and unwarranted media attention. The media campaign against us because of an unfortunate, isolated incident of minor consequence resulting in the fire that killed a few unfortunate workers can only be described as a travesty and exceeded the norms of fair reportage. Truth be known, had it not been for the lack of cooperation from the so killed called, “formal mining sector“, this incident would never have occurred. Matter of fact, had it not been for this misguided action of a confused worker nobody outside our organisation would have known about the incidence. As a mining man, you would understand these things.

In support of my application, I have a Mine Managers Certificate of Competency, which I legally purchased when I was working on the Platinum mines in Rustenburg. A friend, employed at the DME’s office in Klerksdorp, will confirm it is kosher, should anyone decide to do checks.

There are currently about 1500 people employed in the operation, this number fluctuates since workers disappear in the “madala sites” from time to time, others just abscond, a cultural trait of my brethren that will never seize to amaze me, resulting in a need to recruit replacement which, as you well know is not so easy these days. Not with the lowly skilled and lazy riff-raff out there. It is also not possible to give you an accurate estimate of tonnage mined in the operation. We have learned that “grade is king” and we measure output in ounces only. I found that linking earnings to ounces, I get better performance and we do not need “hangers on”, such as surveyors and grade controllers.

I believe my experience can add substantially to the body of knowledge of your esteemed organisation. The nature of our operations necessitates unorthodox methods and entrepreneurial thinking, which can assist people like you and I to reverse the shrinking trend that besets our industry. The fact that we are successfully mining in areas, abandoned by the formal mining sector, proves beyond any doubt that we have a working model.

Areas of operations in which my knowledge can be of particular importance is training and multi-skilling of employees, most of our people are skilled in the entire value chain, from exploration to final product. We have people in our employ who specialise in logistics, a particularly daunting challenge if you consider workers live underground for extended periods, quite an achievement since we do not have the luxury of hoisting facilities as you know it. I always say, “We find, we mine and we process”.

Although we are not bound by DME rules and even though the Minister denies us our constitutional rights to make a living, we do take safety seriously. Excluding the unfortunate fire that resulted in the so-called, “Illegal Mining Disaster”, we have been doing very well in work place safety, with our safety record improving every year. Last year we had an estimated fifty fatalities and this year, excluding the fire deaths, we had only forty. The real improvement can be seen in the number of amputations reported. It came down from 150 last year to an estimated 90 this year. These numbers, I can assure you are correct. My son, who passed Mathematics Literacy at school, is the chief statistician for the company and he can teach you a lot about statistics.

I will also contribute my experience in the in safeguarding of investments against the likes of Jelly Tsotsi Malema, his Buti Malemela and Ballcrusher Vavi with their plans for a hostile takeover of the mining industry. We have established tried and tested defense systems against this type of hard-line guerilla tactics. Our people had training from the best in anti-insurgency and defensive warfare, which we adapted for underground conditions and include the use of grenades, anti-personnel mines, deadly gas, not to mention guns, that’s right, we are the reason the President can’t find his machine gun…we’ve got it. We do not use guns too often underground, only in close combat; ricochets can be dangerous in that environment, whilst poisonous gas, ingeniously used with the ventilation flow, is very effective.

Cynthia Carroll will vouch for us on this one, I recently advised her on defensive systems against the threat posed by that Swiss company with the funny name and Swiss Army Knives as main weapon for “hostile” mergers. We know how devious the Swiss can be. War after war they pretend to be on the fence just so they can lay there frostbitten hands on the gold. It will not surprise me in the least to find they swindled the poor Paul Kruger out of his gold, for all we know the Kruger Millions have been stashed in a UBS vault, in Zurich all the time, whilst treasure hunters are running all over the Mpumalanga countryside looking for gold . It is also quite conceivable that Paul Kruger set this up all those years ago to take revenge against Anglo, whose founding fathers, were in many quarters considered British agents and conspirators in the oppression of the “Boere”.  

I can tell you a lot more, but I’m sure you get the picture. I’m looking forward to the many opportunities, we will have to chew the fat, or shall I say chew the Crayfish, whilst drinking copious amounts of John X Merriman and Blue Label at those famously wild monthly meetings I heard about.

Yours in Safety

Sticksaait Chugumisa

Stealing Mines in South Africa

July 6, 2009

This week saw a frenzy of calls for the nationalisation of South African mines. It started with a call from the ANC youth league, one of the first testers of public and market opinion, and was quickly followed by a similar call by COSATU, despite General Secretary Gwede Mantashe denying nationalization of mines being on the ANC agenda. The debate was kept on top of the agenda with a call by the Young Communist League on Friday, supporting the ANCYL and COSATU in their calls.

I can already see commentators, very optimistically and self-assured, assert that in our advanced democracy and our liberal economy, nationalisation will not happen, since the voices of moderation within the ANC will hold sway and deliver us from this evil. To the naïve Afro-optimists I can only say, dream on. The high regard in which Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are held by said organisations, and other proponents of nationalisation within the ruling party, should be a clear indication that nationalisation has become a real possibility; I will not refer to it as threat for the fear of being labeled a negative afro-pessimist.

During a week of calls for nationalisation of mines, by the indisputable king makers of the African National Congress, the ANC Youth League, Young Communist League and COSATU, only one dissenting voice rose in the wilderness, that of Gwede Mantashe, who stated that the nationalisation of mines was not on the ANC agenda. The strong pro-nationalisation faction within the ANC cannot and must not be underestimated; after all, they managed to get Mbeki recalled despite calls from moderates.

It can be expected that the idea of nationalisation will be pursued with the same vigour as the recall of Mbeki, the removal of the Scorpions and the recent, swift hatchet job on the ANC board, all of these particularly hated thorns in the side of the left-wing of the ruling party, the same people calling for nationalization. This group, including Mantashe has been at the forefront of a campaign to transform the judiciary, currently a top priority with personal attention being given by the President. The fact that the group invoked their trump card, the clear reference to nationalisation in the “holy document”, the “Freedom Charter”, is a clear indication of their determination to succeed in their quest.

Gwede Mantashe the only voice speaking against the nationalisation should not inspire confidence with owners and potential investors in this critical industry. Mantashe’s views on a market economy are well known and will not make many capitalists jump with joy…a bit like having a wolf minding the sheep. The inimitable Mr. Mantashe was one of the first people mooting the possibility of a State Mining Company. He was, through his career as leader of the NUM and the SACP, an ardent supporter of extreme left economic policy and a vocal critic of business, in particular mining companies. Mantashe has also established himself as a manipulative man with many agendas who is no stranger to twisting the truth to suit his priority agenda at any specific point in time. In his climb to the top, his modus-operandi of divide and rule, left divided organisations in its wake whilst, his habit of changing his mind, twisting the truth and flatly denying responsibility does not inspire confidence. I will not consider it beyond Mr. Mantashe, to have instigated this call, creating a situation he can use, to manipulate the situation, a dangerous game indeed.

The comparison, Minister of Mines, Susan Shabangu, drew on the SABC program “Fokus” when asked about nationalization of mines, between a State Owned Mining Company and nationalization does not bode well. It opens the way for wholesale nationalization. The state-run diamond operations, she referred to, is hardly a pinnacle of achievement. This should have set alarm bells ringing. On Monday afternoon the ever-irritating Jesse Duarte said, “with the opinions on nationalisation a national debate is required” or something to that effect. We know how these things work. The noisy “king makers” within the Alliance becomes the voice in the debate through intimidation, anarchy and violence. In ANC-speak this means nationalisation is inevitable.

As things stand, and according to the Fraser Institute in Canada, South Africa is the third least attractive investment destination for international mining investors in Africa, beaten only by the DRC and Zimbabwe. This dubious honour was achieved because of deterrents such as environmental regulations, the tax regime and especially, the uncertainty as to the interpretation of new mining legislation, regulatory inconsistencies and misgivings about land claims. South Africa also received a poor score in terms of labour relations and security. We can now add an additional factor, one as bad as any previously identified factors, probably even worse, the threat of nationalization. History teaches us that chances of reasonable and fair compensation, in the event of nationalization, is almost zero. 

It is no wonder that a company like BHP Billiton, who knew and had first hand experience of Mantashe as a board member at their Samancor Company, have made few investments in the South African mining industry in the last few years. On the contrary, they cancelled oil exploration plans, sold a large stake in Samancor and disposed of their interests in diamond exploration mining. Considering the withdrawal of top gold miner Barrick from South Africa, Anglo’s desperate scramble to get rid of their gold mining interests, Rio Tinto’s low-level presence in exploration projects and recent changes in management structure coupled with rumours of planned asset disposals in South Africa by Goldfields. The prospect youths and low-skilled workers miners, who do not understand the basic concepts of the need of fixed investment, the basics of supply and demand and the basic idea of profit and cash generation in a business running around creating mayhem in support of their call for nationalisation, could be the final straw for mine owners and potential investors.

Disinvestment and “investor strikes” are seldom accompanied by fanfare. Decision makers in mining, in many aspects often act very quietly in threatening situations, preferring to keep all future options open. They will more often than not, step back gently and observe the unfolding drama from a safe place whilst coldly and unemotionally assessing their risks before voting with their chequebooks. They will like in the case of Zambia and the former Soviet Union, bide their time and once the lesson has been learnt they will be back on their terms. They will not shed a tear for the destruction of the nationalised mines; after all, they will be the victims of nationalization. 

Judging the success or rather the lack of success of some of the BEE mining ventures, all of them socially engineered initiatives, one wonders how long it will take to destroy a nationalised South African mine.

Manuel’s Sucker Punch

June 15, 2009

Trevor Manuel, like Barbara Hogan, must be lauded for their frankness and disregard for political correctness, which they proved during the Dalai Lama fiasco and now on labour and privatisation issues. By speaking out, hey have proven that anyone can, like the Vavis, Mantashes and Nzimandis say what they want about sensitive issues, with total disregard for political correctness. All people should feel free to put their opinions of, and feelings about holy cows across in plain and understandable language.

As for Manuel, he has to be lauded for his stance on the behaviour of unions and business. Labour for their economic sabotage and the unholy fear of confrontation shown by business. His views, not unexpectedly, raised the ire of both business and labour. Labour has not had a very good relationship with Manuel and we have not forgotten Vavi’s threat to take a nutcracker to Manuel’s family jewels, much to Maria’s consternation I’m sure. With Manuel adding “cowardly business” to his list of enemies will soon leave him totally isolated, unloved and even shunned by Maria who, by implication, are one of the cowards.

The sabotage and destruction of our economy by unions with unreasonable demands are not in question. However, the underlying cause of the behaviour of the unions must be equally shared by the ruling party who, for two decades, have given tacit approval and, in some cases even incited unacceptable behaviour by Unions. The attitude of Ministers and government leaders in most instances laid the blame for strikes and misbehaviour squarely at the feet of the employer. Good examples are recent SATAWU strikes and the Johannesburg Metro Police strike a year ago. Union members in these strikes behaved boorishly with violence, destruction and intimidation rife (JMPD actually firing at SAPS members). Guilty parties have, to date, not been disciplined or brought before court.

Business probably deserves the label of “cowards”. Like many in South Africa, they will blame their dilemma with labour on all manner of things, ranging from Apartheid, past injustice, the government and labour. Truth is, because of their fear for being branded exploiters, oppressors and racists, they remain quiet or at least, should they risk commenting, politically correct and take it on the chin. In their minds, they make the decision not to invest another cent. They express their discontent with the situation to their friends, peers locally an abroad. Very few speak out and the government, ruling party and its labour partners can go away and tell the proletariat things are great. Political and labour leaders can point to a lousy growth rate of 5% during the minerals super cycle and say, “We are doing great” without fear of contradiction from cowardly business. When things do go wrong everybody blames somebody else. As for business leaders, as much as Mbeki was famous for “quiet diplomacy”, they are famous for “silent disinvestment”.

As for Manual, the way he approached this issue is out of line. In effect, he distances one of the biggest contributors, the government and ANC, from the problem. They now become spectators and business have no inclination which way they will jump when push comes to shove. For those who has had dealings with Gwede Mantashe and understand his duplicity, you cannot be blamed for wondering if this is typical “Mantashe divide and rule” tactics at play. Having been one of the first to tell the Unions to moderate their attitude it looks increasingly like Mantashe could be “His Masters Voice”, as serious obstacle because he is hard to trust. The biggest fear for business, is making a stand in the best interest of the economy, only to find themselves on the receiving end of attacks by the joint forces of Government, labour and the ANC.

The answer to the dilemma facing South Africa lies in the brutal truth, trust and a shift away from the blame culture. A big ask, but to expect things to change in the light of our current performance is expecting too much. We will see a broken economy long before the much treasured and celebrated “pain” from the “wounds” caused by our “troubled past” has subsided.

Illegal miners – Unsung Heroes

June 3, 2009


The President of the Association of Informal and Illegal Miners of SA, Malaisha Kipastofile, called on the minister to enforce a code of practice that will ensure illegal miners can apply their trade safely. He was reacting to the minister’s call for a coordinated attack on the problem and her denial of their inalienable right to earn a living. Kipastofile said the reason for their activities must be laid squarely at the door of the government and the unions. He said the protectionist intent of the NUM and Cosatu has resulted in an out-of-balance labour market with artificially inflated salaries, causing large-scale unemployment and ever increasing job losses in an uncompetitive South African gold mining industry. Other mines will become targets when they, like the gold and diamond mines, become uncompetitive because of high cost of legal mining, which result in the willful and reckless abandonment of valuable in-situ gold resources. To the DME’s comment that the state will not carry the cost of the death of the illegal miners, Kipastofile said he was already in touch with Richard Spoor and the Associaton will sue NUM, The State and the Company for damages. Kipastofile further declared his intention to form a Union representing the unemployed. He said, we do not care about meaningful, and decent jobs, we just want jobs and pay so that we can feed our families.

 When told about the views of the Association of Informal and Illegal Miners of SA (AIIMSA), the spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, Mina Kokomoya, said Kipastofile was a counter-revolutionary with ties to the security establishment of the old Apartheid regime and a cohort of Willie Madisha COPE. Kokomoya added that NUM would demand subscription arrears for the deceased miners since they were working on a mine where NUM has an agency agreement, which compels workers to become members of NUM. The union will however, not entertain claims against the Union by deceased illegal miners or their next of kin. Kokomya vigorously denied the accusation that Unions in general and NUM in particular were destroying employment opportunities. He said, “It is better to die like dogs than to work like slaves” He said he knew for a fact that at least 80% of the unemployed agrees with NUM on this issue.

 In a separate statement, Slack Notsosmart, COSATU spokes person, warned anyone contemplating the formation of organisations opposing COSATU of grave consequences. He said COSATU will not tolerate interference by non-workers in employment matters and threatened mass action in support of the wage demands, the banning of labour-brokers and subversion of the social dream. This tragedy of illegal miners must be laid at the door of labour brokers who undermine union efforts to uplift workers thereby promoting capitalist market myths. Asked about COSATU’s alleged intimidation tactics, Notsosmart said allegations of intimidation during any COSATU industrial action were perceptions created by the white owned media.

Leading economist, Adam Smith, believed that this tragedy could lead to a fresh look at the sustained viability of South African mines and could signal a reversal in the sagging fortunes of the South African gold mining industry. “This could provide us with an alternative model to extract gold from deep ore bodies”, he excitedly said.

A mining industry spokesperson, Tyranny Fortune expressed his admiration for the efficiency of the illegal miners and said, “Their commitment to the task ahead should be a lesson to all. Their ability to remain underground for long periods gives new meaning to the expression. “sleeping on the job” and the management are examining the possibility of applying this principle to current operations”. He added; “This is what we had in mind when we first thought about continues operations.” Fortune denied that the mine owners were discussing off-take agreements with the illegal miners.

The national director of Lawyers for Human Rights, advocate Jakob van Esel bemoaned the fact that the illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, had to recover the bodies of their colleagues themselves. He questioned the commitment and so-called bravery of Mine Rescue Teams and referred to them as ninnies for not volunteering their lives to safe the illegal workers, it is not that they are oppressed like the Emergency Workers currently on strike. The striking workers have the right to refuse assistance to the malingering elite, accident victims, who probably contributed to the situation they are and innocent victims of violent crime, committed by the oppressed poor. Unlike the striking emergency workers, the Mine Rescue Brigades consists of volunteers and have no real right to refuse laying their lives down for the oppressed illegals.

It is believed that the Inspector of Mines issued the illegal miners with a Section 54 order, which could result in a suspension of operations of at least 48 hours. It is also rumoured that the incident may result in a “DME Blitz” on Harmony operations. NUM are debating whether they should call for a 24-Hour sympathy stay away at Harmony operations.

Open Letter to Gwede Mantashe

May 27, 2009

Open Letter To Gwede Mantashe


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            January 9, 2009                         

The General Secretary

The African National Congress

Dear Comrade Mantashe,


State Owned Mining Company.


With the general election behind us and the resounding success of the ANC and its alliance partners your mind must be occupied by the planning and strategising around your ideas for the state mining company that has been a dream of yours for many years. I believe you are the best person to drive and manage such a company given your vast experience of the mining industry, and your understanding of the industry, warts and all, can only lead to success. However with some of the issues needing cleaning up, like sorting out the wayward lot in the Western Cape, Sbu’s car, taxi drivers and the Rapid Bus Transport System, Telkom and that pesky Barney Pityana fellow. I’m sure you find the inability, to give your noble vision for a State Owned Mining Company its deserved attention, very frustrating.

To add insult to injury, Ibrahim Patel, typical of the Western Cape types, goes and steals a march on you and bails out Seardel and their fat, lazy sewing machine operators. I always believed you couldn’t trust anybody from the Western Cape in an economically critical cabinet portfolio. They are just too laid back and plain lazy.

The time has come for you to appoint someone who shares your passion and vision. Someone with similar vision, enthusiasm and commitment. Someone who can take your vision forward now that you have a mandate from your constituency. Now is the time to get the project up and running whilst the capitalist factions within the ANC are still stunned and distracted. If you wait too long they may get organised and drum up enough support to scupper your plans. I believe, without being presumptuous, that I could be the ideal person to make your dreams a reality.

I have the background, education skills, experience and personality that make me the ideal candidate to get the project of the ground. As a young boy, my grandfather taught me how to use a bullwhip on the lazy farm workers, an experience that stood me in good stead later in life. I completed my school education in 1971 after which I enrolled at University. There I dabbled in politics and told everyone I was a communist whilst extolling the virtues of my great hero, Fidel Castro, thus gaining my struggle credentials. After being kicked out of University, I joined the civil service, where I worked for the CSIR in telecommunication research, which helped me to understand our co-operation with the USA on space and telecommunication projects. During my tenure there, I learned a lot about spies and the intelligence community by listening very carefully and studying many textbooks by Ian Fleming, Ken Follet, Tom Clancy and other intelligence and counter intelligence experts. Because of my vast body of knowledge and experience, I, unlike lightweights such as Vusi Pikoli, understand issues critical to state security and I am probably the best-qualified person in South Africa, after President Zuma and Moe Shaik of course, in this critical area. I mention this because I know; both you and the President are trying to deploy as many as possible intelligence operatives from the struggle era into the new government. Very clever, we will not have Xenophobic attacks again only to hear from the likes of Kasrils that NIS knew nothing about it. In this time I did military service, unlike Carl Niehaus I did not take the easy way out…I went up there to learn and hone my skills as a leader and a ruthless soldier. I made it to sergeant, however, my military carreer was cut short by my desire to commit to a fulltime mining career.

Adding word to deed, I joined the mines where I showed my leadership qualities and rose through the ranks to a leadership position in the UOASA (now UASA). You may think that leaders in UOASA had it easy compared to leaders of NUM. Do not believe that, they were a bunch of ninnies walking around with matches, tyres, petrol and machetes, no offense intended. We did not have those luxuries, to swell membership and deal with management, we had only our leadership skills and charm to rely on. However, as some of our comrades say, we did not join the struggle to remain poor and stupid, so I decided to further my mining career and resumed my studies.

I obtained a mining and business qualification and quickly rose through the ranks to a senior management position. During that time, I learned how to deal effectively with Unions, DME inspectors and the many technical and social challenges facing the industry. I learned how to sidestep, beg and, as is the want of our President, promise anything under the sun. Most important, I learned how to spot lazy loafers a mile away. I have also added considerably to my vast knowledge by using my idle time to learn about the GULAG, having watched Michael Palin’s excellent programme showing how effectively Stalin dealt with workers in the uranium mines in Siberia, I became an expert in this field of study. I have I have submitted my degree request to the University of Novokutsnesk and I my degree will be awarded soon.

I also learned a lot about you as a leader, the way you led NUM, SACP and ANC, your immense ability to apply the principle of “divide and rule”. Examples of your cunning resolve are legion, getting Archie out of NUM, manipulating the entire ANC and inserting your carefully selected team to lead the next phase of the economic emancipation of the country and its people. The cunning way in which you by, sowing confusion in the ranks, kept everyone focused  on your objectives, all the time thinking they were doing it for themselves.

Having given your plans and vision considerable thought, I came up with some excellent plans that will make this venture a great success. Obviously, we need a resource. I suggest we nationalise Pamodzi and Anglo Ashanti’s South African gold mines. I won’t be surprised, in fact I almost sure, you manipulated Cynthia Carroll into selling Anglo Ashanti. I mean, we now have a good reason to nationalise the resource, not wanting it in foreign, especially American, hands. As for Pamodzi, we know nobody really wants it. I do however believe, by applying my labour model, we can turn it into major success.

The second most important issue is the Human Resource requirement, people and skills. We know that we lack technical and management skills and given the spectacular failure of Gipsa, which we know was your initiative sabotaged by the Mbeki lot, we are nowhere nearer a solution. We can however steal a march on the rest by using Sonjika and Zokwane’s idea of arresting mine managers when they have fatalities on their mines. We can then deploy them to the State Mines as punishment, a bit like the GULAG. Some of the other technical skills we require can be had in China. With your special relationships, we can easily facilitate that. I thought about your idea of using African skills but in my experience, they are not very good and besides, they will probably be killed by our Xenophobes. The good thing about employing Chinese is that they can work long hours and even stay underground between shifts. They are used to dying in the mine, in China they die by their thousands and you never hear a word of complaint. The performance of Chinese workers in South African mines, in the early days, is legendary.

As for the semi-skilled labourers needed, it should be easy to convince the Unions that the State Mine is theirs as much as the government’s. Using that argument, and a change here and there to the labour laws, we can exempt the State Mines from the restrictive clauses of the LRA . We should be able to employ the unemployed at the same wage we pay Zimbabwean illegals. Another source of semi-skilled labour is cable thieves and illegal miners underground. They are actually ideal for the purpose. Their modus operandi of living underground for long periods, when stealing copper cable and gold, makes them ideally suited for the job at hand. We only have to bring them to surface once in a month to avoid destruction of pigmentation. I have many more ideas but I do not want to bore you now, we can discuss those when we meet to discuss my employment terms.

  Your Partner in Struggle

  Comrade George Annandale


May 27, 2009

* According to Mike Cutifani, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa experienced  an unexpected fatality stoppage, a brief strike by drillers, a slow resumption of operations after the Christmas break and some technical difficulties — nothing particularly surprising or to be worried about. South African operations will be affected by the usual swathe of public holidays over the Easter period

Maybe that is exactly the problem. Everything normal and nothing to be worried about. Why don’t you just shut it down? If the government and the workers do not care, why should management and the investor care?


* Cutifani also stated that no greenfields exploration is being undertaken in South Africa and the country’s mature gold mining industry continues its steady decline.

Mine killer, job destroyer. I wonder what the Vodafools think about this lot. Selling the “crown jewels” to foreigners. I do not think they need to worry too much. The South African operations will be given back to South Africans through some BEE deal that will leave everyone poorer. The Minister probably thinks it has something to do with Cynthia Carol’s goodwill.


* Nick Holland , CEO of Goldfields, stated recently that Kloof reduced fatalities by withdrawing from remnants

Another one? Is he telling us the strategy is to withdraw until nobody is left underground? Surely, he does not believe that, not in this land of opportunity. Imagine, No work, no workers and no risk. It sound like a pretty good growth strategy and it should make the government and unions happy


* According to Holland, the future of Goldfields’ SA operations relies heavily on South Deep and the adjacent Kloof reserves.

This is becoming hard to swallow. Maybe South Deep is one of those visionary dreams, high on promise and low on delivery. By the time they have figured how to turn the rich promises to account, pigs would have learned to fly. Mind you, with the Mvhela stake in Goldfields and with Tokyo’s self-confessed connections with the witchdoctor fraternity, nothing is impossible. A bit of mumbo-jumbo and hey, flying pigs everywhere


* Harmony CEO Graham Briggs said, “We have positioned the company in such a way that we are able to deliver on our promise of paying a dividend in future. Our focus now remains on achieving our overall targets and delivering consistent returns,” he said. This after the March share placement, which followed on from an earlier share placement in December through which Harmony raised R979m.

You know a miner is in trouble when he says as little as possible about his operational performance whilst waxing lyrically about his ability to mine the stock market and then in a spell bounding display dazzles his audience with elaborate plans for the future.


*  It is termed a civil war but the squabble for control of Diamond Mining Giant, Rockwell Diamonds is nothing more than a childish scuffle between two parties with different opinions on how best to mine the Securities Exchange, with no concern for the small investor

At the end of the day, Rockwell Diamonds, under present market conditions, are probably worth as much as the glowing PowerPoint presentations of its magnificent prospects. The mammoth battle between the famous, some claiming to be famous, some inconsequential and the odd reject claiming fame, is rather absurd. As the combatants (Bristow, Bristow and Copeland  on one side and  Von Weilligh, Reynolds and Van Wyk on the other side) square up for the fight that will destroy what little value remains in the company, spare a thought for the employees and the small investor.


* Senzeni Zokwana, President of NUM said; “This marginalisation of women in general and black women in particular not only impacted negatively on the role of women in economic activity but further entrenched their exclusion in the different sectors of our economic landscape .This marginalisation inculcated cultural and gender stereotypes which victimised women particularly in the mining sector .In this regard entrenching the hegemony of male chauvinism in all layers of employment in the mining industry.

Now, many years on, and having had woman minister after woman minister of mines, one ending up as deputy president, and a woman CEO at the helm of Anglo, the mining industry are still miles of the target. Maybe the appointment of a new minister of mines and a minister to look after woman rights will bring fresh ideas. Maybe the Gauteng Premier inadvertently pointed the way forward when she pleaded for open minds on the decriminalisation of prostitution.

This triggered my imaginative mind and I thought of the great Senzeni Zokwana’s wise words; “black men believed also that women must remain in the rural areas or in townships while they dived and descended further into the curse of production in the dark bowels of the earth which have never been hospitable even to the male folk”. Now, if that is a not plea by leaders to make it attractive for men to have woman “on the job” with them, so to speak, whilst their wives are tending the fields, I do not know what it is. If sex is allowed, decriminalised underground in a manner of speaking, the industry will fill their quotas, we’ll clean up the streets by literally driving prostitution underground. It could even solve the skills problem. We’ll have a generation of people, conceived underground, who will unlike normal youngsters, take to mine work like ducks to water. The historic and traditional aversion to work, especially underground work, will cease to be a problem.