Overall, it’s been a good year for South African miners as the rally in iron ore, gold and platinum-group metal prices boosted earnings and put dividends back on the agenda. Still, looming labour disputes, a reliance on a weak currency and the slow demise of gold mining leave the industry with plenty of challenges.
South African mining executives, investors and officials have gathered in the nation’s economic hub for the second day of the Joburg Indaba conference to discuss the industry’s investment prospects after years of regulatory uncertainty. Here are the latest developments.
Platinum miners consider dividends
Impala Platinum is considering paying either dividends or share buybacks, though the company would like to resume payments on a sustainable basis, said Chief Financial Officer Meroonisha Kerber.
While capital discipline is key, in the current environment Anglo American is "not afraid of considering a special dividend", said Emma Chapman, head of investor relations.
Good time for SA investment
The current bearish tone on South Africa means that mining assets are cheap, making it a "good time to invest", said Myuran Rajaratnam, portfolio manager at Metal Industries Benefit Funds Administrators.
South Africa continues to make progress and draw interest from investors, said George Cheveley, portfolio manager, at Investec Asset Management. "We certainly invest in South Africa, but there is always more to do as well from a regulatory and policy point of view," he said.
Minister wants to cut coal price for Eskom
South African Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe said the government is in talks with coal producers as it seeks to reduce the price paid by state power utility Eskom for supplies of the fuel. "At these prices of electricity, this economy is going to collapse," he said. "You have got to reduce the prices."
Mantashe said the government is also worried that Eskom’s value could be destroyed should the transmission business be split off. "If you sell transmission, you are saying close down Eskom," he said.
The minister said South Africa’s resources plan will be presented to cabinet next week, adding that calls to abandon coal immediately show "short-sightedness."