Corporate social responsibility, legislative reforms and mining in South Africa.

25 August 2009

The South African mining industry is currently one of the largest contributing sectors to the country’s economy. In the years preceeding the new constitutional era, the sole aim of the mining sector was the exploitation of South Africa’s rich mineral resources while the majority of South Africans only benefitted indirectly from the infrastructure and economy established by the mining sector. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the mining sector was to a large extent neglected and only received attention after the introduction of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and the promulgation of legislation such as the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002. Although the concept of CSR has been developing since the 1970s, there is still no single universally accepted definition. South African legislation does not place an obligation on companies to fulfil their CSR. However, CSR language is used to bring about measures to achieve some of the CSR objectives. Since the abolition of the apartheid system several pieces of legislation were passed in parliament dealing with skills development and the redress of past discrimination, as well as to ensure that everyone in South Africa has an opportunity to share in the country’s wealth. The purpose of the paper is to indicate how South African legislation indirectly introduced CSR and how this legislation impacts on the mining industry. In this article a brief interpretation of the definition of CSR in the South African context is given, after which legislation that indirectly introduces CSR is discussed. Voluntary mechanisms are then discussed with reference to CSR practice in order to come to a conclusion and to make recommendations.