Address by President Nelson Mandela at opening of Electra Mining Africa Exhibition

1 October 1996

Master of ceremonies;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

This exhibition brings together those primarily engaged in the exploitation of mineral resources and those whose energies are devoted to developing technology and manufacturing equipment that makes such exploitation more efficient and safer.

It brings together those from countries that have successfully survived the exhaustion of exploitable reserves and those from economies in which that challenge is looming.

It brings together those offering the international market the products of successful investment in mining equipment and technology with those surveying the world for new opportunities.

For all these reasons South Africa is proud to host our visitors from other lands: the exhibitors and the prospective purchasers and investors.

The special welcome which we extend to those from our own continent is emblazoned in the renaming of this event as Electra Mining Africa.Your presence confirms for us that democratic South Africa is indeed a part of Africa's effort to use her fabulous mineral wealth to help fuel the engine of her rebirth.

The large European Union participation heralds the further strengthening of Europe's ties with South and Southern Africa in the post-apartheid era, and with the African continent as a whole.

To all our visitors may I extend a warm and hearty greeting: Welcome to South Africa, and may your stay in our country be a pleasant one.

This exhibition highlights challenges which face all mining countries. Some of them test South Africa with particular urgency as it enters a globalised and highly competitive economy.

Fierce competition and depleting deposits demand innovative responses. The engineering and technology on display here show what can be done to meet these needs. They also represent a fund of human capital which promotes diversification and which remains an asset even when mineral resources become exhausted.

So central has mining been to the development of this country, that it inevitably carries some of the worst of the legacy of our past. The industry's fabulous achievements were built on an unjust labour system that became the hall-mark of the apartheid economy. In the same measure, the challenges of transformation are enormous.

Until now there has sadly been little progress in reducing the tragic toll of life and limb that mining has exacted on mine workers in South Africa. But we can with reason say that we are on the brink of a new era. The Mining Health and Safety Act about to come into operation emerges from extensive consultation involving government, employers and labour. It creates a framework for a partnership of these three in the development and implementation of policy. The Health & Safety Exposition alongside the Electra exhibition displays the potential of such a partnership to reduce accidents and save lives.

Recent developments in the mines, including unnecessary and unwarranted loss of life, have brought out in bold relief the challenges we face to bring the social and other conditions in the mines in line with our new democracy. I am confident that the Commission set up to look into these matters will find solutions that will benefit the workers, the employers and the country as a whole.

These issues form part of the broader transformation of South Africa's mining industry as it enters the twenty-first century: to ensure sustainable development of the industry and create new opportunities for investment, involving those previously excluded.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Electra Mining Africa Exhibition and its associated Health and Safety Exhibition, as well as the engineering and technology conferences alongside it, provide a rare opportunity for dynamic interaction among major role-players in the mining industry.

I invite you all, South Africans and visitors from other lands,to seize the opportunities. It is my pleasure to declare this exhibition open.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website