INVESTMENT in SA’s mining industry seems to have reached rock bottom as the stand-off between the mining ministry and the Chamber of Mines continues.
This is despite hope brought by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa being elected ANC president and promising to revitalise the mining sector and revisit the mining charter.
The chamber dropped a bombshell yesterday at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town when it released a survey that revealed that its members had no intention to invest in 2018 while at least one may even pull out of the country.
The survey of 16 companies accounting for more than 80% of national mining output included all of the big players such as Anglo American and SibanyeStillwater. The revised mining charter introduced by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane last year was criticised as dealing a death blow to the industry, which is one of the few growth sectors in the economy.
Chamber CEO Roger Baxter refuses to even talk to Zwane. He said yesterday 2017 was the worst year the industry had experienced. Peter Major, mining sector analyst, said this year looked more worrying as “the charter is blocking investments into South Africa”. Both Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Zwane’s efforts to attract investors was overshadowed by the negative presentation by the chamber.
“We hope to find some positive resolutions on the matter. The Mining Africa Indaba brings investors from all walks of live and is up to us to provide certainty,” Major said. “The rest of Africa is getting investment but SA is lagging.”
Mmamokgethi Molopyane, labour analyst and managing director at Creative Voodoo Consulting, said that for things to start happening policy must be clarified and worker safety addressed. “Until policy is sorted, there will be hesitancy to invest.”
Radebe said in his capacity as the chairperson of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) for the revitalisation of distressed mining communities and labour sending areas, he would do his best to unblock any obstacles to development and steer the sector towards the attainment of its collective vision.
On the other hand, Zwane urged investors to work with the government to turn policy directives into mutually beneficial programmes. But pressure group the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), representing more than 50 countries, said on the sidelines of the conference that none of the mining companies had improved the lives of the communities in which they operated.
Peter Leon, at Herbert Smith Freehills’ Africa, said Zwane had again failed to address the ongoing regulatory uncertainty bedevilling the industry.
“The minister rather surprisingly claimed that the government had created an enabling environment for mining. Not only did the minister not expand on this, but said nothing about the contested mining charter – now the subject of a judicial review later this month by the Chamber of Mines – or the MPRDA Bill which has lingered in Parliament for the past five years.”
He said mining was a high risk, capital intensive, long term industry which requires regulatory certainty and predictability.