Losing the battle, but winning the war – that’s how I can sum up what happened in August 2019 at South Africa’s Brits mine. But before I get to that, I have to go back to 2013. The quarry was under construction (pretty much as it always is, because as Zenon says “a mine is a living organism”). In South Africa, as I described earlier, we are stripping mountains, and consequently the area for mining is considerable. At the moment we are stripping three mountains in parallel, but overall this is already the third, fourth and fifth mining site.



In 2013 we were at site number two, the so-called “hole”. We were able to move more than 2,000 m3 of material per month, but production was not at the right level. In fact, the deeper we went into the monolith, the more the efficiency dropped. A radical decision had to be taken, which involved moving to a new location, the so-called “Monkey Mountain”.

To do this, we had to secure an electricity supply to the mine from Eskom. Eskom is the name of the state-owned giant that supplies electricity to companies and to private consumers. Through various channels we tried to get permission to connect to the network, but it usually ended faster than it started. The golden-hearted Boers – white Africans, Africans who are descendants of settlers from the 17th and 18th centuries – promised everything, but from 2011 to early 2014 we worked using diesel air compressors. Meanwhile, the Marabu mine – one of Merlin’s mines (which operated until 2017) – worked and operated alongside us. One of Merlin’s partners, in total a BEE* partner, had a lot of exposure to official matters and in total to everything related to the mining sector, as his brother worked for the department of mining.

As Zenon keeps saying: “neighbours are there to help each other”. So he decided to make an appointment with him, knowing full well that getting help depended on the goodwill of the interlocutor.

The meeting lasted a few minutes and ended with a short phrase that sticks in my mind to this day: “wrong skin, my friend, wrong skin”. This was the first moment in South Africa that gave me much to think about. I had known before that the Boers could not be trusted. But that blacks are so hostile towards whites – especially visitors – I had not realised! After that story, we had to re-evaluate a lot of things, starting from the fact that we replaced another manager, to entering a new place of operation.

The turning point came in 2014 with the arrival of Eben at the mine. A typical Boer with a past in the militia during the apartheid, after mining school in Pretoria. A lad in his 40s, but he knew how to work with blacks and didn’t let his guard down. Although I didn’t always approve of his behaviour towards blacks, time has verified things. I will leave the story of Eben’s work in our mine for later, but now I will just mention some facts. In 2014, thanks to his contacts with Eskom, we were able to get electricity to our Crystal Black Granite mine, enter a new site on “Monkey Mountain”, and increase production. However, his greatest asset was his approach to talking to blacks and to people in the ‘community’. A few years later I will be grateful for these lessons.





Source: Kurier kamieniarski

Author: Jacek Kiszkiel | Published: 18.11.2020