Mining is an income generating activity that sees many countries scale the heights of power and economic success. Mineral rich countries in the world include West African states, Canada, Australia, and Russia among others. While the list remains endless, some countries continue to discover lead, gold, fluorspar, diamond, and alumina among other minerals (Cam, 2010).
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The main company of focus is the Goliath Gold Mine (GGM) listed in South Africa’s JSE 4 years ago (Annual Report: Goliath Gold, 2011). Employees in various mines probably suffer chronic diseases due to exposure to poisonous gases. Others are buried in the weak mines, while several others get salaries that do not match the amount of work they do at the mines.
Mining is a risk taking activity, and the international community seems to be on the spotlight. Some of the questions the submission will attempt to answer include – what are the ethical and legal implications for mining? If there are consequences of mining as an income generating activity, are there any codes that protect the workers?
Lastly, is mining an activity that takes care of the health of the workers? Most oil or gold rich countries in Africa have British or American mining firms working with Africans as casuals. It means that the real owners of the resources do not have the right technological and intellectual assistance to mining; they have to be subordinates in their own countries in order to earn a living.
This notwithstanding the potholes left after the mining activity and the health risks posed to the locals at the same time.
Adherence to OSHA regulations
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are categorical about the health standards of employees within the work place. According to the regulations, people should work in non-hazardous environments, and should get compensations for any injuries while at work (Koradecka, 2009).
Alumina and Uranium have some of the worst effects on the miners, and it is important for the workers to put on protective gears. These include eye and nose masks and gloves to prevent any form of irritation caused by contact with various minerals.
OSHA obligates all employers to set a clean and non-hazardous work environment through training, outreach programs, and health education, especially when the work environment is likely to pose danger to the employees. Bureaucratic companies dealing in minerals are likely to ignore such regulations, and the employees keep dying while at work or after few years of exposure to chemicals (Alana, 2012).
For instance, at GGM, the precious commodity has to undergo different stages including extraction and washing. There are several chemicals involved, and without protection, the chemicals affect major body organs. Without prompt medical intervention, the case develops in other complex conditions including heart or kidney failure, cancer, or a chronic ailment leading to death (Annual Report: Goliath Gold, 2011).
Sometimes the mining company refuses to take responsibility, especially when the firm provided the protective gear, but the victim still got ill. The rationale is that the gases released from the ground have high levels of penetration, and in most cases, the victims die from suffocation. By enforcing the OSHA principles, it will be difficult to come across such cases in the future. Rather, the cases will reduce over time.
Inalienable basis human rights
Each person has a right to life, and nobody has the right to take it away from him/her irrespective of the circumstance. While many people go to jail because of manslaughter and murder, several mine owners and companies do not face a similar sentence even though their actions amount to murder or manslaughter (Cascio, 1998).
Exposing an unskilled worker to several feet below ground level with poor lighting, no oxygen cylinder, and poor protection is like a life sentence while at work. One of the best practices recommended for such situations includes provision of the best work equipment that applies the latest technologies.
ISO certification is paramount for each mining company because it helps in identifying firms that apply the commonwealth mining laws (Goliath Gold Annual Report December 2012, 2013). The first step to providing a safe and clean work environment is to recognize that workers are humans, they have families and friends who depend on them; therefore, their loss would have a great impact on the lives of their dependants.
As such, workers need the assurance that they will get free medical cover when they fall ill at work. Besides being an element of motivation, it is a gesture to signify appreciation of life. Secondly, the mines such as gold fields and uranium fields need proper lighting below the surface to prevent tripping or collapse of the wall without the awareness of the team underground.
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Latest technologies are equally helpful in reducing workload meaning that they have the ability to conduct surveillance beneath the land surface. Some can also carry out excavation; this would limit the number of people going underground to serve a similar purpose.
However, there are concerns that the machinery would replace human labor, and this form of displacement is a cause of conflict among international organizations in the industry and the casual laborers across the world. To respond to the growing need for safety and health, GGM should consider CSR programs such as the ones carried out by Harmony Gold mine in Lesotho and parts of South Africa (Zwi, Fonn, & Steinberg, 1988).
Labor union representation and a functional code of ethics
Labor union representation is equally paramount, but the workers have to prepare to part with monthly contributions towards the sustenance of such unions. Labor unions create an opportunity for the employees to address their grievances through the industrial courts, but most Middle East oil manufacturing and aero structures industry do not support the labor unions.
For instance, Strata Manufacturing PJSC in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi believes that employees and the supervisors have a code of ethics and a mission statement that strongly supports comradeship. As such, the policies of the company cannot have any loopholes to accommodate any forms of conflict.
Such assumptions should not prevail in the mining sector because of the various risks the employees face on a daily basis at work. A functional code of ethics at GGM provides a statutory authority to the supervisors to lead the organizations while the employees follow the due procedures.
When the code of ethics fails to achieve the objective for which it was set, both the employees and the supervisors do not perform as per the company’s expectations (Breslow, 2002). For instance, application of health and safety standards is a two-way process that applies to both the managers and the workers. The supervisor provides the helmets, masks, and oxygen cylinders.
He/she also invites professionals to educate the laborers on the significance of protection while mining. When the employee fails to heed to all these, the supervisors does not become liable to any accidents. In order to reinforce the same, supervisors and employees should sign the work contract with a clear knowledge of the principles of the code of ethics. This way, both the managers and the employees will take responsibility for any breach of organizational best practice.
Reasons for adopting best practice
Reputation building through adherence to OSHA regulations
GGM has a long way to ensure that the project remains sustainable and the target consumers do not question any legal or ethical activities related to the firm. First, it has to consider engagement in a Local Economic Development (LED) program such as providing scholarships to bright, but poor students, establishing an institution for training laborers about mining, and funding hospices or diabetes treatment centers (Stellman, 1998).
Such philanthropic or CSR programs would replace the image it has in relation to its inability to take care of the welfare of workers by exposing them to extremely deep fields. Most workers equally complain of underpayment or delayed payment; this led to defection from the firm in 2009.
In a press release, the management of GGM apologized to the workers while explaining that since its inception, it was in the process of creating logistics on how to meet consumer needs while dealing with competition from companies established before South Africa’s independence in 1994.
By adopting the OSHA regulations and ensuring that no one violates the principles, GGM will earn consumer goodwill, which will be important for reputation building. In its CSR program, it should refill the pitfalls left after mining, or promote the building of dams to assist the country during dry seasons. Besides mining, the country largely depends on tourism and agriculture (Steger, 2003).
The water will be help in generating power and other domestic purposes save for cooking and irrigation because the gold or lead deposits that grow inside the plants often have long-term effects on consumers. Finally, by training people as the OSHA regulations reinforce, the company will get positive media attention, which is equally important in boosting its reputation and attracting new customers while retaining loyal consumers within Africa and the international community (Goliath Gold Annual Report December 2012, 2013).
Significance of the code of ethics
The codes of ethics adopted by GGM since inception in 2011 require appraisal after 3 to 5 years of operation. The reasons for such levels of strategic planning include the identification of strengths and weaknesses while providing recommendations on the next cause of action.
In 2008, GGM realized that most minefields in South Africa incorporated artisanal mining techniques or the traditional extraction and washing methods. To the company’ realization, most miners got exposure to mercury, forcing the World Bank to support the closure of most artisanal mines in the country.
To date, GGM is not a World Bank agency dealing in extraction of gold in various gold fields in South Africa, but it strives to implement the functional code of ethics adopted in 2011 (Goliath Gold Annual Report December 2012, 2013). There are several problems realized even after abandoning the artisanal techniques of mining since technological advancements equally come with challenges. Markedly, technology might not stop mercury pollution, and the code of ethics does not have the will to offer directives to the machinery.
As such, GGM should review the code of ethics in order to make the company liable to any safety and health concerns instead of relying entirely on technology and ignoring the functional code of ethics the company adopted. By respecting the code of ethics, the company will no longer worry about the environmental land disputes because it will acquire the land mines legally.
In addition, the safety and health of the workers and supervisors will be secure, and this will limit the negative international attention received by unethical firms (Koradecka, 2009). There are companies that face cases of illegal eviction of people in order to carry out mining.
Like Harmony Mining, Goliath Gold Mining has the responsibility of resettling people, avoiding bureaucratic principles of governance, and incorporating ethics in all stages of product development (Breslow, 2002).
It would be irrational to ignore that no legal implications involve land acquisition, eviction of residents, leaving of pitfalls, and exposure to poisonous gases and chemicals. Acquisition of work permits for gold miners remains one of the most complex exercises for investors.
It becomes manageable when the government runs the project, but individual mine owners such as Harmony have a very difficult time in South Africa. Notable legal issues observed by the firm are discussed below.
Non-discriminatory training and seeking expert advice
GGM is yet to establish an employment criterion that trains and appraises both employees and managers. Currently, there is no clear framework for identifying the number of minority workers in the firm, observing gender balance, and avoiding the deployment of child labor.
Since GGM only has three years of operation in the market, it has to ensure that it does not have any biases during recruitment and retention. Child labor is equally a concern that destroys the reputation of many mining firms, but GGM does not have such allegations presently.
GGM has an inclusivity campaign to ensure that the geochemists, laborers, geologists, and the engineers work together irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. The firm focuses on expertise, and it should have plans of succession without any form of racial discrimination (Goliath Gold Annual Report December 2012, 2013).
Observation of legal and civil law
GGM does not formulate civil or legal regulations, meaning that it has to account for its land use and resettlement of displaced South African nationals in case the company seeks to acquire land for mining (Annual Report: Goliath Gold, 2011).
The executive, the judiciary, and the legislature play significant roles in determining different investment ventures in the country. As such, the judiciary formulates laws that the legislature supports while the executive assents. GGM should have an accredited title deed, a work permit, and a license of work in the various mines renewable by the Pretoria City council upon completion of work.
Mines that are close to major roads or railway crossings and airports require way leaves because of future government construction plans (Steger, 2003).
Each sovereign country has a functional national government that approves most investment programs that are likely to provide jobs for the nationals. Therefore, the South African government has the responsibility of the citizens; it should not allow people to die in the name of earning a company income.
GGM is partially dependent on the government; it has to adhere to various government regulations. Common factors worth observance include (Equal Employment Opportunities Codes) EEOC standards and CSR projects that GGM has to conduct in the environment of investment (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2001).
GGM has to construct social amenities such as schools and health care facilities for the residents of Pretoria among other cities that largely depend on the growth of the industry. The government regulates GGM by ensuring that it is a member of the JSE, the Natural Resource Charter, and the South African Securities Exchange (SAASX) (Goliath Gold Annual Report December 2012, 2013).
In essence, the government regulations are important in keeping checks and balances while preventing GGM from using its individually crafted policies in running the South African economy. Taxation remains the most common regulation technique, but the costs increase for international companies investing in South Africa.
The best practice that would ensure that GGM adheres to all the safety and health standards is the appraisal of the code of ethics to match the changing market trends. The code of ethics will definitely address the risks of exposure to mercury and environmental effects of the pitfalls left after mining.
GGM’s code of ethics should equally strive at training laborers in order to reduce the number of artisanal gold mining fields while increasing the number of expert laborers in the South African job market (Cam, 2010). A good code of ethics deals with discrimination, respect to authority, equal payment, equal employment, and the significance of obeying both civil and legal regulations.
The code of ethics spearheads the strategic plan, which contains the mission and vision statements of the company. This means that employees and supervisors will have a common document that contains all the policies and implications of violating the same while working for GGM.
Most companies violate the code of ethics even though they formulate good documents with best practices. By coming up with a good code of ethics that observes inclusivity, it will be difficult to ignore the same. The executive needs to provide the best example by paying taxes, filing returns, initiating CSR programs, and following OSHA regulations, as well as EEOC principles.
When this happens, the code of ethics becomes effective to the rest of the team (Stellman, 1998). One of the most important things about the code of ethics is that it also covers the legal duties of GGM and other mining firms that have functional code of ethics.
Since South Africa would not want to abandon tourism and farming, most GGM CSR programs should support similar initiatives since the public believes that the increasing number of mines causes a reduction in cultivation space. A code of ethics is likely to face many challenges including ignorance, neglect, and lack of support from bureaucratic leaders.
As such, a company attorney and a member of the mining industry regulatory committee should be present when the company generates a code of ethics. The regulatory commission acts as the overseer of the implementation and execution of the code (Gunningham, 2008). This way the commission provides a non-partisan approach to issues while ensuring the GGM operates based on best practices as supported by the code of ethics.
In summary, the mining industry generates a lot of income for many countries. When countries discover oil, uranium, lead, or gold, they seem to forget other avenues of income generation. Sometimes the mining of various precious commodities becomes the source of various problems including health and safety.
Both employees and managers play an imperative role in determining the level of safety and health requisite for each person working at the mine. A proposed best practice to deal with the issue is the establishment of a functional code of ethics that addresses both legal and ethical concerns in relation to mining.
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