The story of mining in South Africa will be incomplete without the inclusion of the communities surrounding mines. From the very beginning, there has been a mutually beneficial relationship between the communities and the mines. This is a tradition that Arnot Opco continues to observe with the re-establishment of the Arnot mine.

The newly established coal miner is embracing the local community through various empowerment initiatives. The very first of these training programmes commenced soon after the new executive, under the leadership of CEO Bontle Aphane, took over operations in February 2020.

“From the outset, we made a commitment to partner with surrounding communities in an effort to build a world-class mining operation. Even before we produce the first coal, we made the decision to invest in the youth by giving them exposure to mining operations in an attempt to interest them in mining as a career. The feedback has been overwhelming and it is our commitment to invest in these young pioneers and make them ready to take up opportunities in our operations when we commence with mining in early 2021, or at any other mining house, “ Aphane explains.

In the first training programme, a group of 30 young women from surrounding communities in Middleburg were selected to take part in the Continuous Mining (CM) Machines Training Project. The mining industry in South Africa has traditionally been male-dominated, but that narrative is changing with more women taking part in mining. Women like CEO Aphane have set the trail for others to get involved in the industry.

Arnot Opco has also sponsored cadets’ training at Joy-Komatsu Training Centre in Witbank. This training was structured to expose young trailblazers to mining and to also equip them with elementary mining skills. The cadets were excited and displayed a keen interest in operating machines previously thought could only be handled by men. One of the cadets, Ashante Kubayi from Extension 24 in Mhluzi, has described the training as an eye-opener. “I believe that the exposure we got will be very handy when applying for work in the mines. It has opened our eyes and rekindled my interest in mining. I am very keen to pursue a career in mining as a result of the training I received,” she says.

With the help of Prominent Paints, Arnot Opco was able to facilitate training for another group of young people from the local community. This group received portable skills training in painting. This is something they can readily apply to earn money or use in their communities.

Many of the mining communities in South Africa are characterised by rampant unemployment and poverty. Their economies largely depend on mining activity in order to survive. When mining stops, the socio-economic ecosystem is crippled and the mining towns go into distress. That’s why the government has made headway in developing a strategy for assisting such communities. Officials have identified 19 distressed mining towns that are receiving special attention from the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation. In a bid to play its role in community development, Arnot Opco is taking proactive steps to chart a leading role in training and developing skills in its area of operations, particularly as the country emerges from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our interest in local communities is not only informed by legislation, but we regard being a good corporate citizen and investing in these communities as a business imperative. The manner in which our company was formed and the broad-based nature of our shareholding, suggests that it is in our DNA to work closely with our stakeholders. Cordial relations with neighbouring communities are imperative if we are to foster stable production and improve people’s livelihoods,” says Aphane.