People of coal

South Africa’s coal mining industry is an important employer in its areas of operation, largely around the Emalahleni coalfields in Mpumalanga province and increasingly on the Waterberg coalfields in Limpopo. The sector employs over 86,900 people, who earn some R24.7 billion.

Employment is created through direct employment by mining companies and indirectly through contractors, and suppliers of goods and services. It is estimated that for every direct job created in the mining industry, a further two to three jobs are created.

The employee profile of the coal mining industry is changing to reflect the people of South Africa. The 2004 Mining Charter provided a framework for the entry, at all levels, of historically disadvantaged South Africans into the industry, including women.

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and coal mining companies encourage women to be active at all levels in the industry. The Mining Charter set a target of 10% for women in core mining jobs and by 2014 overall representation had reached 10.5%. Coal industry members meet, and in some instances, exceed Mining Charter requirements. The coal mining industry strives to ensure that women are attracted to the coal mining industry and that they are retained. Coal mining companies have also implemented career development programmes to develop and fast track women who show promise.

Some coal mining companies have created ownership opportunities to ensure a more equitable distribution of profits. Ownership is implemented through share schemes, employee/community trusts and employee stock ownership plans.

Historically, the coal mining industry drew large numbers of employees from neighbouring countries and rural areas in South Africa but this pattern of migration has changed significantly in recent years. Companies in this sector still draw employees from all over southern Africa, but increasingly employees and their families live and work closer to mining regions.