JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – According to research by American banking group Citigroup, South Africa is the world’s richest country in terms of its mineral reserves, which are worth about $2.5-billion. This leaves the country with significant potential to capitalise on the mineral reserves through mining and beneficiation – or does it?
Although it may seem that beneficiation is the clear route to take to further enhance the potential that South Africa holds with its extensive mineral wealth, there are major demands that must still be met before entrepreneurs will so much as utter the word ‘beneficiation’.
Firstly, there must be a business case for beneficiation; trying to force-feed it is utter folly. Where there are sound business cases, there is then the need for entrepreneurs to step up to the plate, which they will only do if South Africa’s political environment improves.
From government’s side, there has to be adequate electricity capacity and that elec- tricity has to be affordable. The next need is for the availability of the required skills, regrettably within a South African education and training environment that is currently poor. Also required are high-level marketing capability and logistics capacity.
It must also be acknowledged that while the country is paying lip service to beneficiation, the reality on the ground is that established beneficiation is in the process of being destroyed.
For example, South Africa already has been adding substantial value to chrome by turning it into ferrochrome, but this beneficiation is already being unravelled by uncompetitive electricity prices that remain on the rise.
It is paradoxical that, on the one hand, the country pleads for beneficiation and, on the other, it watches beneficiation go down the drain.
Yet it continues to be upheld as a priority.
“Mineral beneficiation is a priority for the governments of resource-rich countries that would like to leverage the potential of mineral beneficiation to create local employment and drive economic growth, and many governments are developing strategies for domestic mineral beneficiation,” says Deloitte consulting executive Ebrahim Takolia.
Minerals Processing and Beneficiation Industries Association of Southern Africa (MPBIASA) president Phineas Mohlala adds: “It is out of the origination and initiation of such postmining mineral processing and beneficiation-network plant infrastructure envisioned that absorptive employment opportunities will be created to include and benefit the targeted empowerment-beneficiary groups, particularly those who are historically disadvantaged.”
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