Small and low-value commodities mined by small-scale surface mines plays an important role in the economy of South Africa and deserves recognition among its more glamorous counterparts in the mainstream mining industry.
So says Nico Pienaar of surface mining industry association, ASPASA. He adds that these operations collectively employ thousands of workers and deserve an equally loud voice within the mining industry.
“In our case mining refers to the retrieval of materials for the building of our infrastructure, dimension stone for floors and kitchen counters, salt for our tables and a wide variety of other commodities that are critical for us to survive and thrive in South Africa.
No matter the size, smaller operations such as quarries that typically employ between five and 15 people using mechanical extraction methods, still have to comply with all the relevant mining, environmental and health and safety legislation. However, when problems or non-compliance issues arise they simply do not have the manpower or expertise to solve such problems. Given the complexity of mining laws and regulations and other issues facing the industry, it is best for these small operations to get assistance and to join forces for a louder voice.
“This is where ASPASA makes all the difference, giving these operations the tools to comply and the methods and support to implement these requirements. It also gives small-scale surface mines a voice that ensures they are able to operate on a level playing field. Membership means small companies and businesses have access to various assessments (audits) of surface mining operations to help them run their operations correctly. The advantage of running operations correctly is that businesses are fully legal compliant. (ASPASA only represents established operations that are legal).
“The Health and Safety Audit is most probably one of the best in the world,” says Nico, adding that “due to demand and requests from members a further audit document has been developed to cover non-mining operations ASPASA also co-ordinates training relevant to health and safety issues and then focuses on actual on-the-ground requirements of the sector.
“With our environmental audits the focus is on legal compliance to ensure operations are not stopped unnecessary, for example where water licenses are applied for and we continue to focus on problem areas to ensure compliance and to address the root of these problems. From 2020 the environmental compliance evaluations will focus much more on training and developing the quarry management to understand and comply with legal issues of environment, says Nico.
He adds that the quality of products produced is equally important and for this the association has developed an audit that focus on testing product quality in a laboratory. The audit will ensure that the product that goes out is appropriate and empowers the business to prove the quality of its products in case of legal actions.”
Other focus areas include blasting and assessment of compliance with legislation, as well as compliance with the requirements of the Mining Charter. On this point, as well as Human Resources (HR) and Social and Labour Plan (SLP) matters, ASPASA also has service providers that assists members to assess and measure compliance.
“Although a large portion of our membership comprises smaller surface mining operations they have a large voice through association with similar operations around the country and that’s why it is critical for these types of operations to join ASPASA,” concludes Nico.