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SA’s economy will pay the price if mineral exploration is not welcomed, says Nkabane

If South Africa does not welcome mineral exploration, the country might end up purchasing those minerals from countries that are more receptive to it, further putting strain on the economy, Mineral Resources and Energy deputy minister Nobuhle Nkabane warned yesterday. Photo: Facebook

If South Africa does not welcome mineral exploration, the country might end up purchasing those minerals from countries that are more receptive to it, further putting strain on the economy, Mineral Resources and Energy deputy minister Nobuhle Nkabane warned yesterday. Photo: Facebook

Published Jan 27, 2022

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If South Africa does not welcome mineral exploration, the country might end up purchasing those minerals from countries that are more receptive to it, further putting strain on the economy, Mineral Resources and Energy deputy minister Nobuhle Nkabane warned yesterday.

In December a coalition of communities in the Wild Coast was granted an urgent interdict by the Makhanda High Court stopping further seismic exploration for oil by Shell in the Eastern Cape.

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Speaking on the last day of the mining and energy investment conference in the North West province, Nkabane warned that geopolitical events might further distress the economy.

“We already know how the geopolitical factors on the sanctions imposed in Iran impacted global oil prices, but also directly impacted us as we import oil to the country,” said the deputy minister. Brent oil yesterday climbed toward $90 (R1 361) a barrel.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe could not be the only one defending mineral exploration, she said.

Mantashe has been encouraging investment in mineral exploration, citing that if South Africa doesn’t protect the right of companies to explore minerals, the country might not grow the mining industry.

South Africa needed collaborative efforts from the mining sector to address this impediment, Nkabane said.

“Our exploration strategy, which has been submitted to cabinet in December attends to the comprehensive challenges that pertain to the preservation of the environment. However, we have also noted the efforts at halting exploration with the excuse that it degrades the environment.

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“We must stress the point that it cannot be one or the other. It is not either the environment or development. We must focus on both and find a balanced approach in this regard. Worth noting is that we don’t defend our right to responsible explore and exploit our natural resources with consequences that such investments of explorations are then shifted to other countries,” she said.

Nkabane said the country must seek to progressively grow production in the mining sector through decisive interventions, adding that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy remained committed to ensuring the promotion of local investors as well as international investors.

Earlier this week the board of Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) echoed similar sentiments: “This is a campaign to stop all exploration for oil and gas in South Africa. It is part of an international campaign protesting against the contribution of fossil fuels to the climate crisis of global warming. We do not take issue with the objectives of such campaigners. The sooner the world moves to carbon neutrality the better for us all.

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“Our difference is we do not accept the viability of the solution they offer South Africa. Vilifying everyone who is involved even in carefully mitigated exploration work does not hasten us to a carbon-neutral South Africa. It simply inhibits growth and renders us dependent on oil imports,” HCI said.

Meanwhile, during her speech, Nkabane noted the South African mining sector had been resilient against the adversity of the global economic decline in productivity as well as the impact of Covid-19 on South African productivity.

Data from Statistics South Africa this month showed that mining activity for 2021 in South Africa was on course for a rebound to near pre-pandemic levels driven by platinum group metals, iron ore and gold production. StatsSA said mining production grew by 5.2 percent in November from a year ago.

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