A junior coal miner from eSwatini who attended the Mining Indaba for the first time said his confidence in the direction his company is going has been boosted while possible opportunities with investors awaited him.
Wandile Hlatshwayo, the managing director of Magomba Mining, was among thousands of delegates from across the world who attended the four-day conference, which ended on Thursday.
The meeting of mining giant companies, policymakers, government officials and junior miners marked its 30th anniversary.
“When I got my licence for mining in coal last year, coming to such a great platform was my goal. This was in order to get an understanding about the value chain and what it entails. I was also looking for opportunities to identify technologies that are now available, funding opportunities and systems that are currently there and certain policies aligned with coal due to the matter of carbon.
“Everything was unpacked. I can’t wait to go back to my country and share everything I learnt here with communities because eSwatini is big on coal, but there is this fear of it being ditched,” he said.
While the future of coal was under scrutiny with deliberations on global trends, another hot topic was how countries have been lagging in efforts to formalise artisanal mining over the past 40 years.
This has led to the sector being misinterpreted by some as illegal mining, making it further challenging to ensure funding and it being professionalised, some panellists suggested.
According to a senior mining specialist at the World Bank, Rachel Perks, with the data they have gathered from about 70% of miners globally, the systems in place to obtain security of tenure and regulate the artisanal sector were too costly and difficult to navigate.
“Miners are saying we want to be legal but the system makes it absolutely impossible. To the governments, we have to take this very seriously because we can put a lot of effort into trying to bring people to the point of being able to be regulated. If the system is broken, then we need to help governments to change them. Another strain is access to finances. These are things that need to start happening at a much bigger scale,” said Perks.
She said the World Bank had made some strides over four decades and financed the sector’s formalisation through lending, grant financing, and analytical work in 31 countries.
The World Bank says about 80% to 90% of artisanal miners world-wide operate informally without the licences and permits required by law.
One of the sector’s key contributions was the supply of various minerals essential for low-carbon, clean energy technologies and the production of jewellery goods.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) chief director in project management, Elizabeth Marabwa, said in South Africa there was an issue of illegal mining and the government was trying to assist artisanal miners with funding as lack of support could inadvertently lead to further illegal mining growth.
“We are working with our entities to support artisanals through programmes such as training and we are in the process of applying for permits.
This is to ensure they are legal. The department is currently also having engagements with the Department of Transport,” she said.