Mining will last another 150 years

Feb 12 2017 06:00
Justin Brown

CONFIDENT Mosebenzi Zwane believes the mining industry is poised to soar. Picture: Deaan Viver

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Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has said that the mining sector remained a pillar of local economic growth and that government expected the sector to continue operating for another 150 years.

“With an estimated $2.5 trillion (R30 trillion) to $3 trillion in non-energy mineral reserves still in situ, we are looking forward to another 150 years of mining in South Africa,” he said. Zwane was addressing the Mining Indaba that took place in Cape Town this week.

“As we move mining forward, let’s take everyone along and ensure that the mineral wealth beneath our soil indeed benefits all South Africans,” Zwane said.

READ: Zwane: Redrafted mining bill sure to pass muster this time

This year, government would be promoting small and medium-sized enterprises as part of its efforts to support mining and beneficiation.

“Job opportunities lie with small and medium companies,” Zwane said.

Deputy minister of mineral resources Godfrey Oliphant said that commodity prices had bounced back and the “winter in the mining industry is over”.

Zwane said the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act was in the process of public consultation and this would be concluded by June, while the new mining charter was expected to be gazetted by March.

Mark Cutifani, Anglo American CEO, said: “The next three to four months will determine the future for the next 150 years.”

He was referring in particular to the new mining law, especially the mining charter. South Africa needed a stable regulatory framework to ensure the country again became the mining giant it once was, Cutifani said.

“If I assume 27% direct black ownership of our mines and add to this the participation by black South Africans in pension funds and directly on the JSE, black South Africans own more than 45% of our South African operating assets,” he said.

“Many people still don’t understand that the owners of most of South Africa’s publicly listed mining companies are not the ‘Randlords’ or magnates of the previous generations, but rather ordinary pension and investment fund owners – that is, average South African citizens of all races: black, white, coloured and Indian.

“White and even black monopoly capital is a conversation that should be condemned to a difficult and dark South African past,” Cutifani said.

Mike Teke, Chamber of Mines president, said that the mining sector was losing the battle for hearts and minds.

The mining industry’s apartheid past was a huge obstacle for the sector, Teke said.

Transformation was happening, but a lot more could be done, he said.

He said there was a need for the next mining charter to be accepted and supported by all.

“Lets get the amendment bill through the parliamentary system,” Teke said.

Roger Baxter, Chamber of Mines CEO, said the amendment bill was first published in December 2012 and it was still not finalised.

READ: Mining sector wants less stick, more carrot from Zwane

“It’s taken too long,” he said.

The chamber had two meetings with the department of mineral resources last year and more detailed discussions this year regarding the charter.

On the issue of transformation, Teke said that the sector wanted black people to own the mining industry.

He questioned whether the mining sector had been dictating to communities or listening to them.

Turning to mine safety, Baxter said that there were safety laws in place for mines and government needed to operate within these.

He added that from 2012 to last year, an estimated 60 000 local mining jobs had been lost.

The Chamber of Mines issued a booklet at the Mining Indaba, indicating that the industry was planning to mechanise.

“Mechanisation would see 592 tons of additional gold resources being mined – equivalent to 11 large gold mines – as well as an additional 360 tons of platinum, equivalent to eight large platinum mines,” the booklet stated.

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