Foundation being laid for renewed exploration interest

24th February 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer


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South Africa has begun to lay down the foundation to position the country as a renewed frontier State for exploration, particularly focusing on critical minerals that will be useful for the future, says research institute Council for Geosciences CEO Mosa Mabuza.

Government adopted the 2022 Exploration and Implementation Plan last April, and is investing in geological mapping at a higher density to unlock the mining sector’s natural prospects for discovery of “world-class” deposits in these categories, he adds.

Mabuza enthuses that government’s incremental investment in the geoscience mapping programme is an “express signal of confidence and the intent is to capitalise on the country’s geological prowess”.

The bulk of the information published on the geoscience data portal presents opportunities for interested parties to process mapping data and affirm the exploration opportunity, he adds.

He also notes that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is working on improving the transparency of its licensing processes to regain the confidence of the investment community, helping it capitalise on licensing opportunities.

He adds that the mineralisation systems of the Northern Cape, in particular, are largely misunderstood, and preliminary geology indicates that this is by far the most significant growth prospect for the local mining and exploration sector.

The council has also established that deposits of ‘minerals of the future’ span the entire country, and that mapping this will reveal the extent of this potential.

Mabuza highlights that the council published a map that displays the presence of lithium- and niobium-bearing rock, called pegmatite, in the Northern Cape, last year.

The council also established that there is phosphate and other associated minerals.

These discoveries have created a new “rush” for applications and exploration rights in the province, which Mabuza says confirms the value of mapping investments.

There are also numerous other targets that are the subject of advanced development that will be made available at a later stage.

Removing Investment Hinderances

Despite these opportunities, Mabuza highlights negative perceptions of the regulatory framework as a challenge that hinders the exploration sector’s progress.

Generally, South African finance institutions also have a low appetite for investing in the exploration phases, preferring to wait until the project has been significantly derisked.

“Establishing an exploration fund – coupled with applications of geology to derisk exploration – will not only support right holders with no financial resources but its success will also send signals of confidence to the financial institutions.

“Greater efforts to explain the regulatory framework and improve on its efficacy of implementation will also accelerate the confidence of the exploration investment communities.”

Mabuza emphasises that, to make the local exploration and mining sector more attractive to investors, there needs to be appropriate assurance that South Africa is a constitutional democracy. These assurances should affirm justiciable provisions in the event that applications of legal instruments by an industry regulator discourages the investor.

“This is one of the most powerful instruments that South Africa has in protecting the sanctity of investments in the country.”

Further, a demonstration of capability of exploration prowess with successful results would help to assure investors. Such results will derive primarily from the exploration fund and the geological information generated by the council.

“In general, success breeds success,” declares Mabuza.

In the short and long term, the council is aiming to achieve several goals.

These include mapping the country at a scale of 1:50 000 (on and offshore), continuing to affirm itself as a capable State institution, and retaining, attracting and motivating world-class geoscientists.

The council will participate in the Creamer Media webinar, ‘Reviving Exploration: what needs to be done to make South Africa attractive to prospectors and how to attract 5% of global exploration spend in the next five years’, which will be held on March 1 at 14h00.

“As the CEO of the council, I will participate in the webinar to meaningfully contribute to the discussions. I’ll be discussing South Africa’s exploration landscape and the requisite modalities to recatalyse activity in the country,” he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor


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