7 June 2012
The government has pledged its full support to South African mining, and is moving to alleviate the skills and infrastructure constraints facing the industry in order help it to regain its global competitiveness.
Speaking at the inaugural mining lekgotla in Midrand, Johannesburg on Tuesday, the Department of Mineral Resources’ acting director-general, Joel Raphela, said: “We should use the democratic space we now enjoy to outline a joint vision of where we want the mining industry to be in the years ahead, building on the promise and techniques of past collaboration.”
Raphela was speaking on behalf of Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.
“We should not forget that South Africa owes its industrialisation and economic diversification to the mining sector,” he said. “It was mainly on the back of mining that our country built its network of national railways, ports, power utilities, petrochemical industries and pipelines as it delved beneath the earth in search of minerals and metals.”
The two-day lekgotla brought together over 1 000 representatives of government, industry and labour to map a way forward on how to improve the global competitiveness of the South African mining industry and its contribution to the country’s economy.
Addressing the challenges
The shortage of skills and vital infrastructure such as rail, port capacity, water and energy were obstacles to the growth and competitiveness of the industry, Raphela said.
A major breakthrough in tackling these challenges was the announcement of a multi-year infrastructural programme by President Jacob Zuma in his 2012 State of the Nation address.
As a result, state agencies such as Eskom and Transnet have made project announcements to alleviate the constraints on the industry. “I am convinced that, as the binding constraints on the operational side of the industry ease over the next year or two, South African mining is destined to regain its competitiveness.
“We have already seen improvements in respect of the 2011 Fraser Institute mineral competitive index, which ranked South Africa 54 out of 93 countries, a 13 place improvement compared with 2010.”
Also planned to contribute to the recovery of the industry is the mineral resources department’s whole scale review of its internal operational processes in order to strengthen capacity and accelerate the pace of addressing challenges.
It will include a review of legislation, including the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mine Health and Safety Act.