South Africa’s economic development has been driven by mining and minerals, and the country is perhaps best known for its historical global dominance in gold and diamond mining. The mineral reserve portfolio is still one of the most valuable in the world, and though mining no longer overshadows the rest of the economy, it remains an important source of direct and indirect jobs, a vital foreign exchange earner, and generator of tax revenues. South African firms are recognised as leaders in turnkey new mine design and operations, mine safety, ventilation, tracked mining, geological services and shaft sinking.
South Africa is endowed with vast and diverse mineral reserve basket, is competitively positioned in a myriad of minerals value chains and is ideally positioned to benefit from a synchronised recovery in global economic growth and resources demand. South Africa has reserves of mining skills and supportive physical and financial infrastructure from more than 100 years of exploitation of minerals resources.
Opportunities for investment abound across the spectrum of minerals resources. Gold no longer outstrips other minerals, and the mining sector is far more diversified, from precious metals through coal to iron ore and non-ferrous metals like manganese. Consolidation forced by the dip in the commodity cycle has left South African mining leaner and better able to benefit from an upturn, and for investors to profit.
Gold continues to account for a substantial share of mining revenue, and still attracts investment, though volumes mined have declined sharply in the last decade or so as miners have had to delve deeper into the earth to extract gold-bearing ore. Prospects are very much tied to the gold price and movements in currency markets. Government is undertaking a comprehensive research and development programme, in partnership with key players in the underground mining sector, to develop a new suite of technologies capable of mining at below four kilometres underground.
South Africa has 80% of the world’s platinum-bearing ore, and hosts the largest number of platinum-group-metals mining operations. Unlike gold, whose uses are decorative and as a currency, platinum and its sister metals have a range of industrial and medical uses, chief among them for catalytic converters and most recently in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
South Africa is the world’s leading producer of manganese, accounting for about 78% of the world’s identified manganese resources. There are no satisfactory substitutes for manganese and most production is exported.
South Africa is also the world’s leading producer of chromite ore, which is used to make chromium for stainless steel, and as such has an absolute advantage in this valuable mineral.