Forget precious metals, let’s focus on industrial minerals

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Forget precious metals, let’s focus on industrial minerals

Plenty of other less sexy metal deposits, if only the government would make mining investors welcome

Allan Seccombe

The frustration felt by mining executives with access to deep wells of finance in dealing with the South African government is palpable. Their message is the same, welcome us, get rid of some of the barriers and we will invest billions.
There is a clear voice coming from the industrial minerals sector in South Africa, that this is an area that has real potential, unlike the nearly exhausted gold mines and struggling platinum sector.John Bristow, an old hand in the South African mining industry and a geologist by profession, has long argued that the fixation the country has on gold and platinum and large mining operations has done the local mining industry a great disservice.
The perception is that the South African geology is understood and there’s little left to find. The discovery of the giant platinum group metal and base metal find north of the northern tip of the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex in recent years proves that a fallacy. Orion Minerals, the Australian company restarting the Prieska zinc and copper mine in the Northern Cape, is excited about the prospectivity mapping around its mine and has an exploration programme to find more base metal deposits.
Bristow also argues there are plenty of other less sexy minerals yet to be found, but which would be adequate for junior miners to carve out a niche and make profitable little companies. The government through the Department of Mineral Resources has to make prospecting and exploration easier for juniors, removing as many artificial and ideological barriers as possible in what is one of the world’s mineral treasure troves that has and had enormous manganese and chrome deposits, as well as gold and platinum group metals.

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