Protesters outside the Mining Indaba in Cape Town in 2013. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Protesters outside the Mining Indaba in Cape Town in 2013. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

DEMONSTRATORS referring to themselves as the "Alternative Mining Indaba" gathered outside the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday, saying that the government and the mining sector were placing profits ahead of people, the environment and sustainability.

At the 19th annual indaba, more than 7,500 delegates from the world’s top mining houses and officials from mining jurisdictions are reflecting on events of the past year, which saw the bulk of commodity prices slow down as growth in China tapered.

Anglican Bishop of Pretoria Joe Seoka said the government and organisers of the official indaba had refused to accept a memorandum from the demonstrators.

A group of about 120 protesters were waiting to hand it over instead to a representative from Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources.

"We are also objecting that this indaba only has government, the investors (in the mining sector) and those who control the mines. There are no union or labour representatives," he said.

None of South Africa’s main labour movements have delegates attending the indaba and there are no presentations scheduled on the issue of labour relations.

Mr Seoka also said that no representation was made to the "real owners of the mineral resources — the people of South Africa".

He said the demonstrators were also remembering events at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine last year, when a wildcat strike culminated in the deaths of 34 people on August 16.

There is widespread concern that there will be more turmoil in the mining sector when wage negotiations in the gold and coal industries start in April.

A proposal by Anglo American Platinum to cut 14,000 jobs after mothballing shafts and suspending processing plants sparked a short, illegal strike last month.

President Jacob Zuma insisted last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the worst of the labour unrest was over. "Yes, we have seen the worst, we are dealing with the matter," he said.

With Mariam Isa