Greater beneficiation in South Africa not feasible yet

4th October 2018 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

Public Investment Corporation mining, beneficiation and energy sector specialist Heidi Sternberg says it is widely believed that South Africa should be beneficiating, since it has much of the world’s gold and platinum resources.

“It is a key node for job creation; however, beneficiation requires skills that South Africa does not have. There is one engineering per 1 600 people, while in first world countries there is an average one engineer per 40 people,” she said during a panel discussion at the Joburg Indaba, on Thursday.

Some resource-poor countries such as Korea are performing well in terms of beneficiation, while Canada and Australia, which are resource-rich, do not beneficiate, she pointed out.

Beneficiation challenges, such as high electricity costs, are plentiful in South Africa. There are also no tax incentives for beneficiation. “Mines want incentives, not levies.”

Moreover, Sternberg said South Africa needs to work on becoming a hydrogen economy, before it can consider platinum beneficiation.

De Beers Consolidated Mines deputy CEO Nompumelelo Zikalala, meanwhile, told delegates at the indaba that De Beers has been engaged in diamond beneficiation for many years.

De Beers engaged dealers, the financial sector, producers, government and other stakeholders to become involved in the beneficiation of diamonds.

She said South Africa needs different skills than it currently has, otherwise beneficiation will not become a reality. 

Council for Geoscience CEO Mosa Mabuza said a creative solution was needed. “We need to change our mindset and seek unconventional partners. Policy is only one part of the puzzle, we need partners that work together for solutions.”

Eunomix chairperson Claude Baissac called for beneficiation to be prioritised in policy; however, not at significant unnecessary cost to mines and not without incentives.