Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) would soon be fully operational as affected parties signed agreements this week to address community issues.
Members of Kwasokhulu, outside Richards Bay, would be prioritised for jobs, and redress to environmental concerns would begin.
Conflict between the unemployed youth of Kwasokhulu and RBM forced the mining company to declare a force majeure in operations in June. Violent protests over unemployment and environmental concerns then followed. The dust from the mineral sands was affecting the community, and seepage damaging the environment and homes, were among the concerns.
Lengthy engagements between RBM, inkosi Buzayiphi Mthiyane, the Sokhulu Traditional Council, the Sokhulu Youth Forum, the Sokhulu Environmental and Disaster Committee, and provincial leadership were held over a number of weeks to find solutions. RBM has committed to dealing with all issues, and addressing complaints.
In the agreement document, RBM stated that it would employ at least 10 community members to fill the 20 available permanent plant operator positions, provided that they met the minimum requirements of a matric certificate or an N3 in maths and science.
RBM’S community recruitment office would prioritise service providers and contractors from the host communities. Together with the environmental committee, RBM would appoint independent specialists to conduct environmental studies.
“This commitment, and any benefits, including employment opportunities or other benefits proposed under it, are subject to compliance with Rio Tinto’s (the global mining corporation) policies, standards and procedures, due diligence requirements and compliance with all applicable laws, including those relating to anti-bribery and corruption,” stated RBM.
Stakeholders had also agreed hold monthly engagements.
To contribute to long-term capacity building, RBM planned to implement a maths and science programme with 10 learners in Grade 10. A CV preparation programme and an interview coaching programme would commence in February 2022. RBM has also committed to rolling out a wi-fi project, once operations resumed.
Lucky Nhleko, chairperson of the youth forum said that although they were happy with the way forward, there was much work that needed to be done in order to address the community’s concerns.
“What we have signed on is fair to us, even though the job opportunities will not completely close the gaps. We are happy to have some of our people getting the opportunity to better themselves,” he said.
Nhleko said that based on their meetings, operations at RBM would resume soon.
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