The South African government is intent on promoting the image of the country’s mining sector as that of a ‘sunrise industry’ despite years of falling production, strikes and upheaval. But for a new dawn, new deposits will be needed, and luckily for South Africa’s still vast industry, surveys have been promising. So what can be done to revive the industry? And where should miners be looking? GlobalData’s mining technology writer Scarlett Evans looks at the opportunities.
Evans says: “Revitalising South Africa’s mining industry would not be hindered by a lack of resources. Estimates from the US Geological Survey and Council for GeoScience show large amounts of minerals still lie within South African land. Mining production is beginning to stabilise in the country, rising 2.4% from a year ago, and predominantly driven by iron-ore’s production rise of 23.7%. Coal (the biggest contributor to total mining) rose 8.6%, and platinum-group metals rose 2.7%.
“It is not only in traditional metals that the country’s resources sector has potential. It also plays host to deposits of minerals that are becoming increasingly important to meet new technological demands. These include rare earths, heavy minerals, and industrial minerals. Taking advantage of these newly popular materials is a clear development opportunity for industry members.
“Vanadium, which is used in the manufacture of hard and strong lightweight alloys, and also in the manufacture of superconductive magnets, appears likely to boost the mining industry.”
Dr. Richard Viljoen, Technical Advisor, VM Investments\Bushveld Minerals says: “South Africa has, in the world famous Bushveld complex 50% of the world’s vanadium resource.
“As a consequence of the growing demand the exploration for and mining of vanadium is expanding in the same way as platinum and chromium mining did several decades ago. The Bushveld also contains significant amounts of tin, tantalum fluorite and other rare metals including lithium.”