Bulk emulsion explosives manufacturer BME says although mining profits have been bolstered in the last two years, more exploration and mine development are needed if the industry is to keep up with future demand, particularly for battery minerals.
The commodity pipeline in South Africa will fall short should greenfield projects not become more commonplace, says BME MD Ralf Hennecke.
He emphasises that key commodities such as nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum-group metals are likely to experience supply shortages in the not-too-distant future.
Hennecke explains that new mining operations or big expansions typically take between seven and ten years to progress from the planning stage to the production of metal.
The demand-supply gap is likely to worsen if levelling production rates are not augmented with new sources of supply. This while the demand for battery minerals is being driven by a range of green technologies.
Hennecke says South Africa is fortunate in that mining is attracting substantial interest from investors, particularly as it increasingly embraces environmental, social and governance goals, and sets climate change-related targets.
“This contributes to a more stable outlook and builds more constructive links with communities and host governments,” he highlights.
The mining industry is also increasingly pursuing efficiency improvements, including through partnering with companies in their supply chains.
“As we work together with mines to improve on-site efficiencies, supply partners such as BME can assist customers in reaching output and sustainability goals. “The digital age offers a great deal to our efforts in developing productive technologies, and we are confident that investors will also recognise this potential,” Hennecke states.
He believes that mines and their supply partners must carefully balance their sustainability and efficiency priorities with security of supply. Building and maintaining robust supply chains has returned to the spotlight since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Economic lockdowns severely disrupted global logistics networks and many – such as shipping – are yet to recover. More recently, geo-political instability, caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has added to the factors that threaten reliable supply chains.
“Despite these challenges, we hope to see levels of investment grow in mineral-rich countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia among others,” Hennecke concludes.