While addressing delegates at the Science Business Society Dialogue Conference on Linking Science, Society, Business, and Policy for the Sustainable Use of Abandoned Mines in the Southern African Development Community Region, in Johannesburg, Van Wyk added that, as formal mining decreases, informal mining will increase. However, he highlighted the need for the transition from large-scale, industrial mining to small-scale mining to be “orderly, sensible and safe”.
Van Wyk observed in his presentation, that about 36 000 people are currently involved in small-scale mining in the Johannesburg area, while about 400 000 people are dependent on this type of mining.
Small-scale mining cooperatives should be supported financially by the governments and that they are provided with the required education and training to be able to execute activities in a safe manner, he suggested
This support could be done through the mining sector education and training fund. He further added that small operations should be grouped together geographically, and for each group, an engineer, a geologist and a health and safety officer should be assigned to ensure safe operations.
Van Wyk added that the Bench Marks Foundation wanted to create an independent fund from which communities can draw to employ their own environmental experts, health and safety officers and geologists and for them “to be able to sit with the large mining corporations and speak from the same level of knowledge and information as that of these corporations”.
Further, there should be regular health and safety inspections at these operations. “We also believe that formal supply chains should be created around these small operations and that nearby communities should be involved in those supply chains, so that there is a ripple effect from them” he noted, adding that small-scale mining is the freest market economy in South Africa, as it is not monopolized or concentrated.