Mining brings relief to rain starved Cape Town

It wasn’t rain, but it was good enough to give Cape Town’s water deprived inhabitants, and the South African mining industry, something to smile about.

The first day of Investing in African Mining Indaba was an optimistic affair compared to the last three or four years. Delegates were noticeably upbeat, and there were more of them, which, of course, explains all the smiles in the Mother City, as Indaba is a significant money-spinner.

Image credit: Leon Louw

However, it was the reconciliatory tone of the South African Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, that took most by surprise. In Zwane’s welcoming speech, he emphasised the need to improve current geological knowledge, something Roger Baxter, CEO of the Chamber of Mines, touched on in an earlier press conference.

According to Baxter, in-depth surveying, geological mapping and making this information available on-line, is essential to ensure a thriving exploration sector. “We need more exploration projects in South Africa. There are many undiscovered ore-bodies in the country, and we need to encourage emerging exploration companies to become part of the mining environment,” Baxter told African Mining on Wednesday on the sidelines of Indaba.

The big constraint of getting exploration projects off the ground is funding, and that is something that “the government needs to address as soon as possible,” Bridgette Radebe, CEO of Mmakau Mining and official representative of South Africa’s junior mining companies, told Zwane at a midday question and answer session. Radebe called for a fund or even a bank for junior miners. “Agriculture has a bank, why can’t mining?” Radebe asked.

Zwane was optimistic about the future of South African Mining, saying that the mining industry in South Africa is now in spring time, and that it would be summer soon. “Those companies that invested during the winter, will now reap the benefits,” he said. Zwane was in a compromising mood and said that his department’s door remains open for anybody to discuss the Mining Charter, which has been controversial, and is currently on ice, awaiting a court ruling. “We are willing to discuss and settle the matter outside court if we have to,” Zwane said. But Zwane remains uninspiring, and what motivates his new narrative is anybody’s guess. If he is really willing to negotiate remains to be seen. Yet, the positive talk adds to the building wave of optimism sweeping through southern Africa.       

Earlier Baxter said that positive winds of change are blowing through South Africa, and that a new political order in southern Africa is a cause for great optimism. “We are definitely seeing a turn, and all the signs are there that we will have a much better 2018,” he said.       


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