Mining Engineers in South Africa have had an uncertain few years, what with the wild cat strikes and violence of last year in the mining sector which left more than 50 people dead. To add to their woes it seems that the violence that spun out of control last year is threatening to start up again with reports by Reuters that a shop steward from South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was shot dead a week or two back on a Lonmin mine. A second person was taken to hospital, and was in a critical condition. This latest development has sparked fears that a renewed cycle of violence is starting up in the South African mining industry.
According to Reuters, Lonmin have said that the shooting took place at the NUM offices at Wonderkop community, near the town of Marikana, which is about 120 kilometers away from Johannesburg. This is also where police shot dead 34 miners last August in what was the country’s deadliest police action since the ending of apartheid.
This has done nothing to help the ailing rand, which has now retreated against the dollar after the shooting and fears of more violence. The rand has lost 13 percent against the dollar in May alone. Tensions remain high in the mining sector in South Africa.
What is of interest to me is how Mining Engineers in South Africa are doing on the salaries front, in lieu of the uncertainty, and violence that plaques the industry, and what must be difficult working conditions that they are subjected to. Times cannot be easy for anybody working in the mining industry in South Africa in recent years, given what has been going on in the industry.
Given the bad working conditions and instability of the mining industry, how do their salaries compare to their counterparts based overseas, who also have their own set of worries and problems, but are not faced with the violence and uncertainty that mining employees in South Africa are facing.
Miners in South Africa have been notoriously badly paid when comparing their salaries to those in other countries, and the salaries paid to the miners are the main reason there has been such tension in the sector. Unhappiness around salaries has been simmering for a long time, and directly resulted in the blood shed of last year. However for many of the half a million or so who work in South Africa’s mines, it is relatively well paid work when taking into consideration that in South Africa, one in four people have no job, although I suspect this number is actually substantially higher, and where poverty has reached epidemic proportions.
However what would be interesting to see, is how professionals in the mining industry are fairing salary wise. Recent job cuts in the industry and the recent announcement that the Anglo American Platinum Corporation (Amplats) will lay off thousands of its workers, will leave miners in South Africa with the prospect of a bleak future. All of these factors, will no doubt have resulted in a number of South African mining engineers moving to greener pastures overseas, where they have peace of mind and less worries in the workplace.
So what are Mining Engineers still working in South Africa earning, and how do their salaries compare to their counterparts in other regions?