New deposits are needed to promote the image of South Africa’s mining sector as that of a “sunrise industry”, despite years of falling production, strikes and upheaval, data analytics and consulting company GlobalData mining technology writer Scarlett Evans says.
She notes, however, that surveys “have been promising” and says the country has a number of opportunities at its disposal.
The revitalisation of South Africa’s mining industry “should not be hindered by a lack of resources”, she says, adding that, according to estimates by the US Geological Survey and South Africa’s Council for Geoscience, the country still has large amounts of minerals that lie within the land.
Evans says mining production is beginning to stabilise in the country, rising 2.4% from a year ago, driven mainly by iron-ore’s production rise of 23.7%.
Coal, the biggest contributor to total mining, rose 8.6%, and platinum-group metals output 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,” Evans points out.
These include rare earths, heavy minerals and industrial minerals. And, taking advantage of these newly popular materials, is “a clear development opportunity for industry members”, she avers.
“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.”
According to Bushveld Minerals technical adviser Dr Richard Viljoen, South Africa has, in the Bushveld Complex alone, 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,” he comments, adding that the Bushveld Complex also contains significant amounts of tin, tantalum fluorite and other rare metals including lithium.