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Mining Success Stories

2009-09-03 13:51:00

In the days of Shaka Zulu, King of the Zulu nation, the "black sands" of Zululand were known to contain useful minerals. Zulu warriors fashioned their weapons with iron by smelting the minerals found in these sand dunes. Today these minerals are used to manufacture a wide range of products essential to our modern lifestyle. IIlmenite, rutile and zircon are common minerals around the world, yet nowhere are they in such dense concentrations as across the coastal regions of northern KwaZulu-Natal, along the Zululand coast.

Richards Bay Minerals was formed in 1976 to mine and beneficiate the vast mineral-rich sands in these coastal dunes, extending 17 kilometres long in a two kilometre wide strip from north of Richards Bay. What began as a greenfields project has become a remarkable success story. After supplying South Africa with its ore requirements, the remaining 95% of almost two million tons is exported, making RBM a leading world producer.

The success of a mining company can easily be quantified by the amount of ore mined and distributed. However, the contribution which it makes to the people of the region is not as easily measured - yet even more significant.

The surrounding communities have all benefited from RBM's social investment initiatives, which have helped transform this area into a thriving community.

The company employs some 2100 permanent staff and on average 2000 contractors at any given time. These job opportunities are made more meaningful by the development of projects like the Zululand Career and Lifeskills Learning Centre, which focuses on developing skills, furthering education and functioning effectively in the workplace.

A programme was also initiated to improve a drastically inadequate infrastructure in the region in which RMB began operating; providing schooling, health services and community facilities for the local communities. This effort resulted in 200 new classrooms, five clinics, a library and a range of sporting facilities. Active self-sustenance projects have resulted in markets for home-grown fruit and vegetables, a marketing system for the sale of home-made crafts and a flourishing co-op.

Stories like this reveal a refreshing sense of responsibility from modern mining companies, to give back as much as they take from a region. The commitment demonstrated by RBM to the KwaZulu-Natal province goes beyond the presence of ore in the area. And their passion to preserve the assets of the region is unquestioned.

An extensive environmental dune rehabilitation programme has been followed since the inception of mining in the area. With the expertise of environmental scientists, the re-development of indigenous dune vegetation and various animal communities has proven to be extremely successful.

The company is proud of the positive effects it has had in building a better future for the people with whom this region is shared. It is a form of renewal. Just as the minerals extracted from the sand enhance the lives of millions of people throughout the world, so the fruits of mining are enhancing the lives of people who live in the area.
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