Investors tout beneficiation

2011-02-12 11:49

Plans by government to speed up beneficiation of South Africa’s minerals are a step in the right ­direction which will help to grow the economy and create much-needed jobs.

This is the view of some of the investors who attended the African Mining Indaba which was held this week in Cape Town.

Nchaka Moloi, the chairperson of the South African Mining ­Development Association, a grouping of junior miners, said beneficiation of ­local minerals would enable the country to ­diversify away from mining and boost industrial exports.

“We are a country that is well endowed with natural resources, but at some point these resources will be depleted,” Moloi said.

He said beneficiation, also known as minerals-processing, could in years to come turn South Africa into a high-tech ­industrialised nation with a ­significant skills base.

Moloi’s views were echoed by Anna Mokgokong, the chairperson of Namane Resources, who ­believes that thousands of jobs could be created if local minerals were made into manufactured goods before being exported.

“If we implement the beneficiation strategy, the mining industry will have a local market for its production instead of shipping everything overseas. I fully ­support beneficiation because it is the way to go for jobs,” she said.

In his State of the Nation ­address, President Jacob Zuma ­announced that plans were afoot to adopt beneficiation as ­government’s official policy.

At this stage it is not clear whether the newly created ­state-owned mining company will drive beneficiation, but Moloi reckons that the ­state-owned mining company could be used as a vehicle to drive the strategy, or a separate entity could be established to champion beneficiation.

“The private mining companies are not willing to champion beneficiation. It must be ­well funded and well resourced and it must be underpinned by an ­aggressive skills-development ­programme,” Moloi said.

He saw organisations such as Mintek and the Industrial Development ­Corporation playing a major role in supporting beneficiation in terms of providing technical and funding assistance. Mintek is a technology organisation which specialises in processing minerals.

Although there is no clarity at this stage on what minerals the state-owned mining company will invest in, Moloi saw it ­investing in strategic energy-related ­resources such as coal, uranium and platinum.

Platinum is seen as an energy resource of the future, particularly in ­hydropower ­generation.

He also saw the state-owned mining firm snapping up ­infrastructure-related minerals such as iron, manganese and chrome, which are in high ­demand in booming economies such as China and India.

“I don’t think it will be involved in gold and diamond mining ­because they are luxury-related and therefore not strategic ­minerals,” Moloi said.

Zuma said the company would take advantage of the opportunities in the local mining sector, which has assets valued at about $2.5 trillion.

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