As mining injects a much-needed economic boost into South Africa’s Northern Cape province, Omnia company BME is investing in an initiative to spread these benefits to the local economy through an innovative concept that has already started supporting small businesses and creating jobs.
The mineral-rich Northern Cape – one of the country’s most sparsely populated regions – has recently seen an exciting uptick in mineral exploration and development projects. It was traditionally known for diamonds and copper but is now also an important producer of iron ore and manganese.
The Council for Geoscience highlights that the province is a significant hub for new ’tech minerals’ in mining today including zinc, nickel, lead, copper and cobalt. These key elements are pivotal in the manufacturing of smartphones, electric vehicles, and renewable power systems.
To effectively leverage the benefits of mining in the province, South African mining companies have increasingly focused on optimising the local socioeconomic impact of their operations. As a mining solutions technology partner to its mining customers, BME supports this strategy through its alignment with Omnia’s commitment to innovation – to enhance life and create a greener future.
This latest initiative in the Northern Cape – where BME has extensive operations – involves investment in an enterprise development programme in the vehicle maintenance sector. According to Ramesh Dhoorgapersadh, BME’s General Manager for Safety, Health, Environment, Risk and Quality (SHERQ), the programme aims to build sustainable economic capacity in the region.
“We are enhancing the sustainability of a beneficiary company by providing financial support and workshop facilities for the first year, in return for essential servicing and maintenance of our light delivery vehicles,” Dhoorgapersadh says. “The vital aspect of the project, however, is for the beneficiary to grow its customer base and its commercial sustainability – making it self-sufficient and profitable even after our contribution.”
There is a pressing need for enterprise development as small and emerging businesses in the local communities are struggling to gain financial independence and to expand, he said.
This is a key factor behind the lack of job opportunities for local communities and the increasing unemployment rate. There are also few opportunities for skills development and training in these local communities, which hindered individuals from accessing better job prospects and stifled community advancement.
“This initiative emerged from a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by local communities in the Northern Cape region,” he states and adds that the focus of BME’s programme is on the development of the whole company, so that natural and sustainable job creation can occur as the entity develops. After its initial support in the first year, BME then gradually reduces the assistance as the beneficiary develops, with the aim being independent.
The support covers the provision of a workshop to service vehicles for the first 12 months, as well as the electricity and water for the facility. The workshop is kitted out with safety equipment, tools and equipment and a weekly development and coaching session is conducted by an inclusive procurement contractor. The coaching helps to develop business acumen and financial management skills, while focusing on expanding the customer base beyond the work required by BME.
“The beneficiary commits to an agreed number of monthly man-hours for vehicle fleet servicing for us, and can access an initial cash injection,” Dhoorgapersadh explains. The sustainability philosophy that underpins the project means that there is a win-win outcome for both partners.
BME is gaining a cost-effective solution to its vehicle servicing needs and is reducing the turnaround time when its vehicles go in for mechanical attention.
It is also developing positive relationships within the local community and economy. In turn, the employees in the beneficiary company gain improved skills through mentorship and on-site guidance, while the business can rely on a secure income for the base-level work that it performs for BME – while building its reputation and capacity to serve a wider customer base.
Sustainable development goals
“As with all our corporate plans, this enterprise development initiative is aligned with Responsible Care Codes of Management Practice (CMP) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs),” Dhoorgapersadh says. “In particular, we are addressing SDG 8 on promoting decent work and economic growth and SDG 11, which aims to foster sustainable cities and communities.”
By combining a financial contribution, upskilling and infrastructural backing, the project is a reflection BME’s commitment to social and economic progress. He emphasised that the mining sector is increasingly aware of its post-closure obligations, as every mine is by its nature a non-renewable resource. Mines are therefore moving towards procurement policies and practices that aim to gradually reduce the risk of economic dependency. Such over-reliance has been shown to have devastating results on communities when mines finally close, leaving businesses and employees with few alternative sources of income or business.
“Our ESG approach is to engage constructively with communities to support diversity within local economies – so that they can outgrow their reliance on a single mine or mining complex,” Dhoorgapersadh adds. “Our concerted efforts to uplift local communities must therefore be based on driving sustainable growth and self-reliance, as this is the most effective route to transformation.”
Already, the initiative has yielded a range of positive outcomes, he points out. Through efficient vehicle servicing, both BME and the beneficiary are experiencing a positive impact on their bottom line.
“The decreased turnaround time for service activities translates to fewer delays and improved overall efficiency,” he states. “BME’s involvement has fostered positive community interactions, promoting a reciprocal relationship between the company and the community in which it operates. Beneficiary employees have also witnessed improvements in their skills and knowledge, equipping them for future opportunities.”
Dhoorgapersadh adds that BME’s initiative stands as a beacon of corporate social responsibility, demonstrating how strategic partnerships and targeted investments can generate transformative change. “Through financial backing, skill development and holistic support, BME is not merely fostering growth within a single beneficiary company but sowing the seeds for broader socio-economic prosperity in the Northern Cape region,” he concludes.