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Outdated notions of beneficiation won't cut it

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One proposal that might bail out South Africa’s ferroalloys industry is that Eskom agrees to a long-term power purchase framework in which there is tariff relief in return for smelters reducing consumption during peak demand periods.

Ferrochrome and ferromanganese production consume baseload power ‘when people are sleeping’, but it will vanish at the current rate of inflation. According to the Minerals Council of SA, electricity tariff hikes have culminated to about 500% over the last decade.

In the meantime, the government has papered the cracks with an export tariff that would charge mainly Chinese buyers more for chrome ore – the stuff ferrochrome producers put in a furnace to make the higher-value ferrochrome, used in the fabrication of stainless steel.

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