Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN

Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has called on the mining industry to fight against a burgeoning negative perception of the sector.

“There is a very strong narrative against mining, and its growing,” Mantashe said in a keynote address at IHS Markit's 14th Southern African Coal Conference on Thursday morning.

“Half the time mining is silent when everyone punches it. The industry must take pride in itself and articulate a more positive narrative about itself.”

Mantashe said mining remained an important sector of the economy, with a 7% contribution to GDP. It can contribute up to 10% in next five years, if managed properly.

It also accounts for 40% of SA’s foreign earnings and Mantashe believed this contribution could be increased.

SA has an abundance of coal resources and the industry is the fourth-largest employer in the mining sector. In 2018, coal was the biggest generator of revenue, ahead of gold and platinum group metals.

However, Mantashe warned that the attack on coal mining was particularly acute.

“Coal producers wake up, you are under siege,” he said.

While the government has committed to a “just transition” to move away from coal-fired power to renewable energy, this  ”doesn’t mean we must destroy what we have”, Mantashe said.

“Coal producers mustn’t be in denial, they must respond to this threat, scientifically.”

Research initiatives for alternative uses of coal, alternative markets, and cleaner generation of energy from coal was key, he said.

Mantashe further implored the sector to think about the future. This was through investment in the development of resources, but also by defining  the role of mining in the 4th industrial revolution.

He said no piece of technology could exist without components that come from mines. 

Mantashe, however, warned the industry must embark on conscious and responsible mining that would co-exist with other economic and social activities.

Producers must ensure that by exploiting present benefits, it does not damage them for future generations, he said.

steynl@businesslive.co.za