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All role players and stakeholders in the mining industry must make their environment a more sustainable place throughout South Africa, says Professor Dan Kgwadi, Vice-Chancellor of the North-West University. He was speaking in Sandton during the launch of Bench Marks Foundation’s latest report that highlighted the gaps in Kumba Iron Ore Limited’s Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.

The North-West University’s research centre, Bench Marks Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, did the research in the mining town of Kathu and its surrounding areas in collaboration with the Bench Marks Foundation. The aim of the report is to lead to the improvement of the living conditions of communities in the mining industry.

Prof Freek Cronje, director of this research centre, discussed the report, findings and recommendations of Kumba’s study. “Thousands of employees are involved in mining activities across South Africa. We must make sure that the wellbeing of these communities is looked after. We also aim to change corporate behaviour towards responsible business conduct that benefits communities and embraces the overall wellbeing of those most negatively impacted upon.”

Professor Kgwadi stressed the importance of stakeholder participation – including both government and the private sector – in order to combat the huge challenges that remain in South Africa, particularly in the mining areas. He also said that corporations must holistically and systematically look after all three main dimensions of development, namely economic issues, the natural environment and people.

“Without this,” he said “sustainability will remain a pipe dream”. He said that he could not understand why rich mining giants still have neighbours that, in some areas, live in the utmost poverty and are not really benefitting from the mineral richness of the country and the land they live on.

He said that the report released by the Bench Marks Centre situated at the Potchefstroom Campus and the Bench Marks Foundation, brings to the fore the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within South Africa as a developmental state and further pushes the need for urgent awareness and realisation by corporations that CSR is the right thing to do.

He added that the role of civil society in development by organisations such as the Bench Marks Foundation, is essential and must continue to play a watchdog and a whistle-blowing role.

“The establishment of Bench Marks Centre was formed as a collaborative relationship between the North-West University and the Bench Marks Foundation and has played a central role either in research or the finalisation of research reports. This collaboration illustrated the importance of academics playing an activist role, in a responsible and scientific way, in research that will highlight what is happening in South Africa,” Professor Kgwadi added.

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