Four key players in South African mining, taking part in a debate recently facilitated by Brand SA, acknowledged that the sector is faced with major challenges, but agreed that SA mining is “open for business”.
the Country’s Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant, Chamber of Mines CEO Bheki Sibiya, BHP-Billiton chair Xolani Mkhwanazi and SA Mining Development Association (Samda) chair Peter Temane took part in the debate in Cape Town on Sunday on the eve of the 2012 Investing in African Mining Indaba conference.
Samda’s Temane said infrastructure development and the opening up of the Sishen-Saldanha railway line to all mining companies would assist with the development of small miners – especially in the mining of manganese, of which South Africa holds 80% of the world’s reserves but only contributes 20% of worldwide production.
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Downstream beneficiation was another priority for South Africa, as this could help with spreading wealth, Temane said. “Let us rather create a thousand millionaires than one billionaire.”
Deputy Minister Oliphant agreed that lack of infrastructure was a key constraint for mining in SA, and pointed out that a government inter-ministerial task team was currently investigating how this could be alleviated.
Public-private partnerships ‘the way forward’
On the issue of nationalisation of mines, Oliphant said the debate has been going on for many years and would continue. But he said the government would not act recklessly, noting that South Africa was “a rule-based society”.
He also pointed out that, should the state’s mining interests be consolidated into one company, it would be run like all other state-controlled institutions.
The four participants agreed that partnerships between public and private sector players in the industry were the best way to ensure that South Africa became an investment destination of choice for international mining companies.
On the question of transformation in the industry, the Chamber of Mines’ Sibiya said he was unapologetic about the issue, adding: “We are second to none when it comes to transformation and standing head and shoulders above the rest of the industry.”
For him, the challenge was more about wealth creation.
Training, development, safety
On the challenge of training and development in the industry, Sibiya said the sector was spending 3.5% of its payroll on human resource development. “At the Chamber of Mines we are committed to addressing the issue and we are also looking at creating a development fund at the Chamber.”
Oliphant said health and safety was a major priority for the industry, and that the Department of Mineral Resources had consistently maintained that if mines could not maintain mine safely then they should not mine at all.
Sibiya pointed out that the Chamber of Mines was in a major drive to achieve zero fatalities and was following the Australian model, which was a world-leader in this field.
Oliphant said the Department of Mineral Resources had embarked on several projects for responsible management of the environment, including acid mine drainage and the rehabilitation of derelict mines.