November 20, 2017

Beneficiation and modernisation plans take centre stage in mining analysis

 A report by Oxford Business Group (OBG) shines a spotlight on South Africa’s mining industry, exploring the key part that a modernisation and efficiency drive is expected to play in helping firms offset input-cost pressures.

The Report: South Africa 2016 also looks at the latest developments in the government’s plans to retain a greater share of mineral value in-country, which have hit stumbling blocks in the past. Other topics covered include the move among mine operators to seek out alternative energy sources against a backdrop of rising costs.

 Aside from its in-depth sector analysis, the global publishing, research and consultancy firm’s report features interviews with leading representatives and key industry players, including Norman Mbazima, CEO of Kumba Iron Ore.

With an estimated $2.5trn worth of proven mineral reserves, South Africa’s mining sector remains a major player in the country’s economy, despite weak commodity prices, making a direct contribution of around 8% to GDP and providing 14% of total employment. However, the challenging external climate continues to weigh on the industry, with the current downward cycle expected to stretch well into 2016. Internal issues, such as power disruptions and infrastructural shortfalls, have piled added pressure on operators.

Mbazima told OBG that while South Africa’s mining companies were targeting greater efficiency across the board in operations, manpower, equipment productivity and supplier rates, improvements in transport infrastructure would support their efforts.

“Currently, all iron ore goes through the Saldanha port facility, which is owned by Transnet,” he said. “We would like to see a coordinated capacity expansion of the railway and the port itself going forward.”

Mbazima was upbeat about technological developments and talks with stakeholders on how best to take the mining industry forward. “However, emerging companies will need assistance if they are to fill any voids left by multinational companies,” he noted. “Mining is very capital-intensive… The industry is in need of assistance, and the entire mining chain should be closely examined to implement a new beneficiation strategy.”

The government is keen to develop key mining value chains in iron ore and steel, platinum-group metals, polymers, titanium and mining inputs. However, its efforts to step up beneficiation have come up against hurdles in the past and proved controversial. In its report, OBG considers the options available to South Africa’s leaders as they eye a longer-term solution.

“In most products you probably have at least five different steps in the full value chain,” Mosa Mabuza, deputy director-general of mineral policy at the Department of Mineral Resources said. “Our goal is not to develop all at once, but rather one step at a time.”

The Report: South Africa 2016 is a vital guide to the many facets of the country, including its macroeconomics, infrastructure, banking and other sectoral developments. Oxford Business Group’s publication is available in print and online.

Source:  Oxford Business Group

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