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Beneficiation hampered by policy conflict

Oct 17 2012 11:07 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Lack of common understanding about beneficiation has delayed South Africa from transforming its minerals to usable goods, said Ben Turok, chairperson of the Institute For African Alternatives.

“One of the main challenges we had in the past was that we did not have a common understanding (on beneficiation). There was no consensus, no common understanding of what we are talking about,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Turok said another obstacle which prevented South Africa from beneficiation was that there was no agreement in the private sector and government on the potential gains that beneficiation could bring to the country.

The briefing followed a meeting held at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) head office in Sandton on Tuesday at which economists, engineering councils, mining companies, unions, government departments and academics met to discuss beneficiation of minerals in South Africa.

Mining companies complained that there was no alignment of policy among government department on beneficiation, Turok said, reporting on the concerns raised during the meeting.

Turok said currently mining companies did some smelting of the minerals but did not take the process to beneficiation.

He defined beneficiation as the transformation of a mineral or a combination of minerals to a higher value product.

A presentation was made during the Tuesday meeting in which the value chain of beneficiation was outlined as consisting of exploration, extraction, processing, beneficiation, semi-fabrication and fabrication.

“South Africa has been judged as the best resourced mineral country in the world. However the beneficiation of these minerals is very low,” he said.

South Africa held 88% of the world's reserves of platinum group metals. However, only 0.4% of these metals were beneficiated locally.

A total of 80% of the world's manganese reserves were in South Africa and the country enjoyed a monopoly of 72% of the world's chrome reserves.

The report of the meeting would be first sent to participants and then delivered to various relevant government departments, portfolio committees, and the chamber of mines with recommendations.

Nationalisation was not discussed at the meeting.


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