Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe

SA is a safe venue for mining investments, and licencing corruption is being addressed, mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe said as he opened Africa’s largest mining conference on Monday.

Explaining his reasoning, Mantashe, who has been SA’s mineral resources minister for a year, said there was a policy and legislative framework that would give investors certainty around what was expected from them and the regulatory environment in which they would operate.

In a speech devoid of any specifics and that failed to address key concerns around land expropriation without compensation or a potential electricity tariff hike that would all but destroy deep-level mining, smelting and refining in SA, Mantashe said his department was addressing licencing problems at provincial level.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address delegates on Tuesday afternoon, extending the reassurances for mining companies and encouraging investment in SA.

Ramaphosa is also delivering his second state of the nation address on Thursday evening, and there are expectations in the local mining sector that the future of Eskom and electricity generation will be addressed in the speech.

In his only nod towards addressing corruption, Mantashe said his department was “paying attention” to regional offices in all nine provinces where there had been “a number of problems in processing licences”.

Offices in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces have been closed for audits to root out corruption.

Mantashe said this work would continue to ensure there was a clean licencing process.

“We want to reassure investors it is safe to invest in SA,” Mantashe told thousands of international and local delegates in his keynote speech opening the 25th Investing in Africa Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

“We need responsive and ethical leadership. If we do that investors, will be reassured of SA as an investment destination,” he said.

Listen to Business Day deputy editor Jana Marais and mining and energies writer Lisa Steyn as they reflect on the highlights of the Indaba. 

Mantashe reiterated that the petroleum aspects of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act would be stripped out and set up in their own act.

He stressed the need for beneficiation and singled out hydrogen fuel cells for “mass commercialisation” — which use platinum — as an area that the government was keen to grow. SA is the world’s largest producer of platinum.

Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said SA had to address its infrastructure challenges, needing world-class assets and globally competitive pricing to attract capital not only to existing investments but new investments too.

Minerals Council SA CEO Roger Baxter said if Eskom were granted permission to impose a 15% per year price increase over the next three years, deep-level underground mining would stop, as would nearly all smelters and refineries.

Job losses would total 150,000 from 450,000 as all but one of 21 gold mines in SA and 75% of the country’s platinum mines would either shut down or became marginal, as one of their key input costs increased by a cumulative 75% in three-years.

“I guarantee you there will be no deep level mining or smelting refining in SA,” Baxter said.