Africa's mineral development potential under-explored

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pretoria - The mineral development potential of the African continent is unparalleled, says Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.

Addressing the Africa Down Under Conference in Australia on Wednesday, Shabangu said the continent was host to most of the minerals needed for developing the world-over.

"... Africa remains grossly under-explored for its mineral potential. For instance, the exploration expenditure per square meter averages 65 US dollars in Canada, Australia and Latin America, whereas the African equivalence remains below 5 US dollars per square kilometre."

She said the mineral exploration prospect in Africa remained extremely high, requiring both local and international partners and investment to unearth.

"This requires responsible investment in the continent, not based on exploitative principles centered solely on expectations for unrealistic rates of returns that are disguised on the principle of high risk - high return. Mining is a long term investment and not about quick wins. Those who balance Africa's mineral development with growth will ultimately receive the greatest reward in a long term," the minister said.

She said it was their intention to work collaboratively with African countries and international partners to focus on enhancing geo-scientific knowledge in the African continent for development.

The minister said while South Africa had the world's most abundant resources and reserves of platinum group metals, the sector experienced a supply demand imbalance last year. This resulted mainly from a significant slow-down in demand from the traditional consumers of platinum, reaching its lowest ebb during the course of this year.

"For the mining industry and platinum mining jurisdictions, the ramifications of depressed demand for platinum are severe, especially at the time when the cost inflation for production is reportedly high."

As a consequence, the minister established a task team under the auspices of the well-established tripartite in the mining industry, namely, the Mining Growth, Development and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT) in June this year to investigate both short and medium to long term interventions sought to mitigate against the negative impact of the afore-stated challenges on development and employment in the platinum sector.

While the task team was progressing exceptionally well to execute its mandate, the platinum sector and the nation at large faced the unfortunate events that unfolded at Marikana two weeks ago, she said.

This after 34 people were shot and killed in clashes with the police. Seventy-eight others sustained injuries. Prior to the incident, 10 other people including two police officers were killed.

Following the tragedy, President Jacob Zuma established an Inter-Ministerial Committee consisting of 10 Cabinet ministers to provide immediate support to families of the victims.

This was followed by the establishment of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the events in Marikana.

"The President and the people of South Africa are determined to isolate bad elements in our society that are seemingly committed to undermine the democratic gains of the country to date," the minister said.

About 250 people have been arrested in connection with the Marikana tragedy.

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