South Africa plans platinum economic zone

9 February 2016

With 70% of platinum being produced in South Africa, the government is working towards opening a new industry-based special economic zone in North West, to look into beneficiation.

This is according to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, who participated in an investment dialogue held under the theme “Driving competitiveness and ensuring growth and stability”, hosted by Brand South Africa, at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, yesterday.

The restructuring of the Chinese economy had led to its growth slowing down, which had resulted in a slump in the prices of commodity such as gold, platinum, iron ore and coal. This had affected many markets, including South Africa, a producer and exporter of minerals.

After the slump, South Africa could no longer afford to see itself just as a producer and exporter of mineral resources, Davies said. The special economic zone board would soon make a recommendation on the exact location of the zone.

“We are supporting quite a number of our projects. There is quite a lot of work that has been done in the country already. The Department of Science and Technology has been rolling out fuel cell-driven small generators to outlying areas to supply schools, clinics and all that.

“The Chamber of Mines launched a fuel-cell driven generator in its own building in Johannesburg,” he said.

“We will be, in the course of this year, supporting projects. We will be rolling out a special economic zone in North West that is dedicated to the platinum value chain with the expectation that fuel cell technology will come in.”

While he could not say when commodity prices were expected to recover, the minister said instead of waiting for another commodity boom, South Africa needed to look at beneficiation to find new uses for platinum products.

“I think it means that we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. sitting around and waiting, hoping that there is a bounce back in mineral prices. If your existing customers are buying less of your product, and they are paying less for it, the smart thing to do, among other things, is to seek new uses for your product.”

He had been engaging with the platinum industry, Davies said, and all stakeholders were in agreement that there was a need to support the beneficiation of platinum and to find more uses for the product and to create industries around it.

The soon-to-be-established special economic zone would come with several benefits and investors would have the advantage of getting a tax rate of 15% as opposed to the 28% that was currently on offer. “So we are looking to establish an industry-based special economic zone there. There are actually some others in other provinces that are under consideration.

“What we need to do is establish a set of industries that make use of that platinum, generate long-term uses of it and fuel cell industries are taking off around the world and we as South Africa are looking to get our niche in particular products of particular manufacturing industries off that and will assist in creating a new demand for this mineral and create more opportunities for us to make use of the resource.”

Small business

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry is supporting 15 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the mining sector to show their products and services at the Investing in African Mining Indaba.

The department said a national pavilion had been set up, in partnership with the Department of Mineral Resources and Brand South Africa, at the indaba. The SMMEs hail from different parts of the country and will be given opportunities to meet with prospective buyers and investors.

Davies said the decision to collaborate with other government departments was motivated by the fact that the Mining Indaba was a global event that provided an international perspective on African mining. It was an opportunity for the government to help the private sector.

“The Mining Indaba is a big marketing opportunity for South Africa to highlight the investment opportunities in this sector. Despite the current cyclical downturn in the mining industry, South Africa – by virtue of it being a leading country with reserves in a number of key commodities – remains an extremely attractive mining investment destination and has opportunities for the whole value chain.”

The Mining Indaba ends on 11 February.

Source: South African Government News Agency