THE BOTTOM LINE
Jokes aside, Gwede could be just the guy to fix SA mining
It is immediately apparent that he doesn’t pander to whining, claims to entitlement or industry pressure
The news out of the South African mining sector in recent months has made for depressing reading: the gold industry is on a virtually unstoppable downward trajectory, the platinum sector is in all kinds of trouble and the regulatory environment is still – at this juncture – a mess.
So what are the counterpoints to this stream of unremittingly bad points? There must be some, surely.
Looking at the regulatory environment, firstly there is a new Mines minister, Gwede Mantashe, who has actually spent decades in the mining industry and has the political clout to deliver. Hearing him on public platforms and addressing questions from a broad cross section of the industry it is immediately apparent that he doesn’t pander to whining, claims to entitlement or industry pressure.He comes to the job with a reputation from his days as the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers as tough but able to compromise. He is driving the formulation of a third Mining Charter hard and wants amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to be finalised within months. These amendments have been in the works since 2012.
And it’s not all gloomy across SA’s mining industry. According to Stats SA, the manganese and diamond sectors had a wonderful year in 2017, while chrome and iron ore also performed strongly.
Yes, the gold industry is in a pitiful state and major mining companies have cut their exposure to the country to token levels compared to their historical presence. Mines are shutting and jobs are being lost.
This is where the government could take a look at what its African peers, particularly Ghana, are doing to keep mines open and attract new investment by structuring tax incentives and other rebates. Outdated political ideology has to get out of the way of pragmatic business sense in SA.