Call for mining sector local inclusion
MINING Minister Lebohang Thotanyana says it is crucial for locals to assume strategic positions in the mining sector that are currently dominated by expatriates.
The mining sector is estimated to employ 3000 workers with the figure set to rise to 5 000 amid plans by government to open more mines by 2020.
Although they constitute 4 percent of the labour force, expatriates dominate the top positions in the sector, including the posts of chief executives at most diamond mines in the country.
Apart from Kao Diamond Mine, which has two CEO positions with one held by a local, Letšeng Diamonds and Liqhobong Mine are currently managed by foreign nationals – a scenario Mr Thotanyana said could only be rectified through the provision of training for locals.
“Expatriates are estimated to constitute about four percent of our entire labour force in the mining sector. However, the jobs the expatriates hold are the most strategic,” Mr Thotanyana said in a recent press briefing.
“That is why we are always harping on the need for training of locals in order for them to take up some of those positions, because we want Basotho to be able to operate the mines.”
Mr Thotanyana subsequently told the Lesotho Times that government was working on a long-term plan to gradually train more locals and provide them with relevant work experience to improve their chances of making it to the top positions.
“We have a plan to train Basotho through the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) where we are providing scholarships to students who want to study courses related to mining outside the country to increase our skills base,” Mr Thotanyana said.
He said the mines were also obliged to have in place, an elaborate localisation plan which indicated how they intended to include locals in their top management structures over the course of time.
“The mining leases these mining companies get also mandate them to develop local skills, which is why you see them providing educational scholarships and offering internships to trainees and experiential learning.
“Another issue that is a challenge for us is the lack of relevant work experience for Basotho. This is not very surprising since our mining industry is still young with less than ten years, while some of the top positions in the sector need people with more than ten years’ experience.”
He said the problem was not confined to senior positions as the lower operational levels also suffered from the skills shortage.
“Under normal circumstances for one engineer you need to have about ten artisans to work with, but here we have just too many engineers and too few artisans,” Mr Thotanyana said, adding this was exacerbated by the fact that local technical training institutions lacked capacity to produce the required standard of skills.
He said the lower operational positions in the sector were also important as they employed more people than higher management positions.
Meanwhile, the Minerals and Mining Policy of 2015, which is a government document that charts the way towards a transparent and sustainable extraction of the country’s mineral resources, indicates that government will facilitate development of human resources skills to meet the ultimate requirements and challenges of the mining sector.
Government intends to achieve this by developing a holistic training strategy involving other stakeholders such as universities and specialised training institutions, fostering partnerships between government and mining companies in providing training to qualified Basotho as well as exploiting regional capacities in training Basotho nationals to work in the mining sector.