CAPE TOWN - South African junior miners on Tuesday demanded that the government do more to equip and assist the industry's small players through favourable legislation and funding.  

Sifiso Nkosi, convener of the Junior Miners Forum, told a session at the annual mining "indaba" in Cape Town that the government was not creating enough business-to-business opportunities for smaller producers, and accused it of putting in place stringent requirements which only established mining houses could meet.

Nkosi singled out the department of trade and industry as the "the most impossible department" for junior producers to deal with. The department is mandated to assisting junior producers through its Mining Development Association.

"You don't try to understand where we come from as junior miners. On your last investor mission to China, out of 40 junior miners who are already mining, only three applications were approved as part of your mission," Nkosi said.

"Query upon query has been lodged, escalations have been made, there is no response, there is no intent to assist us."

Yunus Hoosen, acting chief executive of Invest SA - an initiative of the trade department, said Nkosi's sentiments showed lack of understanding that his office only dealt with "incentives" and not "funding" to junior miners.

Thabo Mokoena, the director-general of the department of mineral resources (DMR), said he would personally work to foster linkages between junior and larger producers.

"We have started a conversation with established mining companies including De Beers and Anglo American that their ore resources can assist junior miners. I will personally take over this issue of junior miners and deal with it personally," Mokoena said.

Earlier, mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane reiterated that junior miners should benefit from the department's R20 billion, 10-year intensive mapping programme headed by the Council for Geoscience.

Chris de Vries, managing director at minerals corporate advisory firm Venmyn Deloitte, small scale miners faced regulatory obstacles.

"The cost of compliance when it comes to all the regulations is a heavy burden. And if you're a junior miner that doesn't have an office with 100 people, it actually costs a lot of money. Their barriers to entry are significant," de Vries told the African News Agency in an interview.

"The trick is that legislation is there for a purpose to make sure we have good to labour practices, to make sure we are sustainable from an environmental and safety perspective."

"So it's important to retain the principles and the key elements of those pieces of legislation, but I do think there is an opportunity to streamline things by being more collaborative; particularly juniors and DMR working together."

 - African News Agency (ANA)