Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa was among several high profile attendees present at the 30th edition of the Investing in African Mining Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Monday.
During a presidential keynote address, Ramaphosa addressed thousands of people, while Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe delivered the official opening address at the start of the five-day indaba.
The theme for the 2024 edition of the Mining Indaba is “Embracing the power of positive disruption: A bold new future for African mining”.
Ramaphosa said mine-owning companies employed about 476 000 people.
Last year, four objectives were outlined to develop the mining sector. These were to achieve a secure supply of electricity; to identify and accelerate economic reforms to improve the operating environment; to tackle illegal mining; and damage to infrastructure.
On illegal mining, he said: “Since the establishment of a specialised police unit working with our Defence Force, we have seen a number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions of the perpetrators of this crime.
“But these crimes are being fuelled and aided and abetted by highly placed people, some of them in countries that are outside of South Africa, and our police are investigating this and are on the trail of these very big players who fuel this illicit mining as they try to enrich themselves.”
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRW) through the country's national mineral research organisation Mintek, continues to seal ownerless and derelict mines.
“These are mines that major companies operated, extracted minerals from and then abandoned, abandoned without doing the necessary rehabilitation and without sealing the mines and they just packed their bags and left.
“Having done that, they opened opportunities for small-scale miners but worse off for the workers that used to work for them whom they retrenched… Because those workers know the mines very well, they then take up the opportunities and engage in very dangerous operations and this then means that the problem has now been left to government.”
Since 2019, the department has closed and sealed 251 derelict holes and shafts. Over the next three years, the department intends to close a further 352 shafts.
“South Africa’s freight logistics system itself is undergoing a process of rapid and fundamental change to improve its efficiency and position it for the future.”
Mantashe said the department was closely monitoring the implementation of R400 billion mining projects committed at various investment conferences between 2018 and 2023. He said the department was also working “with the necessary speed” to wipe out the licensing backlog within this year.
He further announced that the country’s exploration fund, in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation, would be launched today after having passed regulations and approvals.
“The establishment of this fund will catalyse some of the discoveries we have made, such as the discovery of rare earth-bearing minerals, such as lithium, coltan, and phosphate in a rock formation known as pegmatite in the Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo.
“These discoveries have brought to the fore the urgency and need for South Africa to finalise and put in place its own critical minerals strategy which we intend to launch this year.”
During his welcoming address, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the South African economy and other African states were held back by a number of state failures “that repel capital rather than attracting it”.