A stack reclaimer with a pile of iron ore at the Rio Tinto Parker Point ship loading terminal in western Australia. Picture: REUTERS
A stack reclaimer with a pile of iron ore at the Rio Tinto Parker Point ship loading terminal in western Australia. Picture: REUTERS

Rio Tinto’s decision to invest R6.5bn to develop the next stage of its mineral sands producer Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) is one rare piece of good news SA desperately needs. The country needs the jobs this will create even more. This investment in the Zulti South project will extend the life of SA’s largest mineral sands producer and beneficiation company by about 30 years. This is a significant development, since parts of Zulti have been mined for about 40 years now.

If ever there were an endorsement of SA as an investment destination, this is it. From such a respected global miner, the vote of confidence in SA’s mining industry is what the country should be going all out to get, all the time. RBM produces a quarter of the globe’s titanium feedstock, a third of its zircon, and a quarter of the world’s purest iron.

The investment also fits well with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to attract an injection of about R1.4-trillion into the economy over the next five years. First commercial production from the project is pencilled in for the second half of 2021. The government needs to do more to make the regulatory environment more certain, and conducive to attracting more of this kind of investment into the country. The starting point would be to resolve the electricity supply question once and for all.