The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has been allocated a budget of R1.779 billion to carry out its mandate for 2017/2018 minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced.

Minister Zwane delivered this news during his budget speech to the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

Over R900 million of this allocation will be transferred to the department’s entities, who are responsible for work in – inter alia – research and development (R&D), skills development and beneficiation, to mention but a few.

With almost 2 000 operational mines and quarries across the country, the mining industry contributes around 7.5% to the GDP, and employs an average of 457 292. 96% of known global reserves of platinum group metals, 74% of chrome, 80% of manganese, 25% of vanadium and 11% of gold reserves are found in South Africa. “It is therefore our considered view that mining is a sunrise industry, with immense opportunities.”

“We have the mammoth task of breaking the systemic inequality, poverty and unemployment seen in our country, and as the Department of Mineral Resources, we will continue to use our policies and legislation to achieve this objective,” stated Zwane.

The legislative framework

Zwane says South Africa’s economy remains lopsided, unequal and non-inclusive. The majority of the people of South Africa who make up 90% of its population remain excluded from the economy. This is a huge detriment to South Africa’s socio-economic growth efforts. “The need for radical economic transformation is more imperative than ever before, because it seeks to redress the institutionalised monopoly of our economy.”

“Economic reforms are needed to ensure broader and inclusive participation to enable the attainment of a far more inclusive and competitive economy. Our primary legislation, the MPRDA, is designed to facilitate easier access to the minerals beneath the soil by the people of South Africa,” highlights Zwane.

“This piece of legislation is being strengthened in order to ensure that the majority of South Africans benefit from the country’s mineral resources sector. We appreciate the work being done in the respective provinces to finalise this critical piece of legislation,” continues Zwane.

The 2017 Mining Charter which has just been gazetted is meant to be a catalyst that provides practical expression to our goal of a more inclusive economy Zwane noted.

“We encourage the young people who are the future of this country to embrace the Mining Charter by exploiting the opportunities to be unleashed by this Instrument of Change. We will be embarking on provincial roadshows in the next two weeks to raise awareness and to take the Charter to the people.”

DMR and its entities in the provinces

A large volume of the work undertaken by the Department and its entities happens in the respective provinces, where South Africans interface directly with the regulator.

In Mpumalanga, Mintek has trained 300 learners this year in surface mining. These learners came from areas including Umjindi, Emakhazeni, Thembisile Hani and Mkhondo municipalities.

The entity is also piloting a plant for the passive biological treatment of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), which will be located at eMalahleni. It is envisaged that the process can be used for low-cost water treatment after mine closure.

A similar test is being done in Randfontein, Gauteng, where a technology demonstration site is active, targeting the treatment of AMD and the removal of toxic and radioactive elements such as uranium and heavy metals from the Robinson Lake sediments.

“The beneficiation of our minerals locally is critical for the growth and sustainability of the sector. This is one of the elements highlighted in the 2017 Mining Charter,” said Zwane.

In Upington and Prieska in the Northern Cape, two beneficiation centres have been set up, for which technical and marketing support is provided. The centre in Upington has seen a tremendous improvement, with learners coming up with new designs in ceramics and jewellery. The increase in tourist visits to the centre has also boosted sales.

In Bokone-Bophirima, a process flowsheet has been developed for the recovery of chrome from chrome tailings dumps in the Bojanala district.

The procurement element of the 2017 Mining Charter also supports the need for mining companies to procure from black-owned companies, youth-owned and women-owned companies to facilitate increased economic participation of the marginalised groups in the mainstream economy.

“This will result in the localisation of supply chains, and the revitalisation and growth of SMMEs in township and rural enterprises, which is part of the Nine Point Plan by Government to grow the economy,” highlighted Zwane.

Rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines is on-going. A total of 45 sites were rehabilitated, which include Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, in the previous financial year.

“As we put more focus on rehabilitation going forward, we have partnered with the Department of Public Works to ensure that the rehabilitation of sites provides work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme. We have been allocated R3.1 million for this programme over the MTEF,” stated Zwane.

In Beaufort West in the Western Cape, the Council for Geoscience and the Petroleum Agency (PASA) will be drilling three vertical shallow holes to assess the ground water levels and movement. This is part of government’s scientific programme to assess the potential for shale gas development in the country.

In line with commitments made through the Social and Labour Plans, mining companies have implemented projects in a number of municipalities, including Amathole Disctrict Municipality, Chris Hani District Municipality and OR Tambo District Municipality. “We must continue to intensify efforts to improve conditions in this province.”

“I am confident that we have the support of this House in passing the budget for 2017/18, and that we will together continue to move the mining industry forward, and ensure that the people of South Africa indeed benefit from the wealth beneath our soil,” concluded Zwane.