As workers at the mining companies that operate in South Africa face the prospect of layoffs, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference called for a “social compact.”

“In the midst of low commodity prices we are told by some mining houses that mining is a business, and not a charity,” the commission stated. “We are told that in lean times mining is essentially about controlling costs, including labor costs, and disinvesting in loss-making assets so as to achieve better returns for shareholders as suppliers of capital.”

“We would like to remind the industry that during these lean times mining should also be about people, especially the livelihoods of workers who helped the mining companies to make huge returns for shareholders during the years of super-profits,” the commission added. “We have always emphasized that mining should also be about the common good – and not only what is good for shareholders at the expense of the broader society.”