PUSHPENDER SINGLA VZI hopes to also establish socioeconomic benefits into the wider municipal and provincial communities, and the provincial and national fiscus
This year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba – to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from February 6 to 9 – will emphasise strategies to support supply chain security for the energy transition and seize opportunities to capitalise on the commodities supercycle.
In line with this theme, zinc mining company Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) is expected to restart metal production from its existing 150 000 t refinery in Namibia, subject to support from government on electricity tariffs.
“The VZI team is confident to feed the refinery from its existing oxide pit and sulphide concentrate feed from its Gamsberg operation in South Africa’s Northern Cape for the next 15 to 20 years after it converts and expands the refinery to treat sulphide concentrate,” says VZI executive director and CFO Pushpender Singla.
He tells Mining Weekly that the conversion project will result in the current refinery treating sulphide concentrate and capacity being expanded from 150 000 t of metal to 300 000 t – through an investment of R6.5-billion – thereby creating 1 500 jobs.
“We are fully committed to see this plan through. However, the refinery requires reduced electricity tariffs from energy company NamPower to be economically feasible. There are great mining investment opportunities in Africa, and Vedanta remains committed to unlocking some of these opportunities, but government support remains key for Vedanta to unlock these investments.”
Further, he expects that, when operating at peak capacity, the Black Mountain Complex, in the Northern Cape, will contribute R4.5-billion a year to South Africa’s gross domestic product and R1.1-billion to the national fiscus.
An enterprise and supplier development fund was established in 2018, in partnership with funding solutions provider Phakamani Impact Capital, to promote the advancement of local suppliers.
From March 2018 to November 2022, more than R4-million has been approved by the investment committee, with over 26 small, medium-sized and microenterprises having been supported and 36 business loans approved.
Singla says the fund has created 216 jobs for the community in the Northern Cape.
VZI has invested more than $1.7-billion in Southern Africa, and has been contributing over R165-million in corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in South Africa and Namibia since 2018.
Singla says the company’s childcare and education support programmes benefit over 1 800 children at an average cost of R6-million a year.
“In South Africa, our social projects are aimed at skills development, livelihoods, education, health, enterprise development and municipal infrastructure support. “We also support various youth and sports clubs as part of our CSR programme,” he adds.
Moreover, VZI’s flagship CSR programme, the Broad-Based Livelihood (BBL) programme, in Khâi-Ma, in the Northern Cape, is facilitated by VZI’s socioeconomic development partner Umsizi Sustainable Social Solutions and is an ongoing poverty alleviation programme.
The BBL programme encourages inclusive local economic development by transferring horticulture and livestock management skills that will assist communities in achieving food security and job creation.
“Through the BBL programme, we aim to establish a sustainable development plan to ensure economic wellbeing in surrounding communities post mine closure.”
More than 650 people have benefited from the programme, now in its fourth year, adds Singla.
VZI’s medium- to long-term goals are to increase production from 300 000 t/y to one-million tons a year, with local beneficiation making the company a fully integrated zinc producer.
Singla says investment in South Africa will allow for an influx of capital into developing and operating mining assets, in addition to socioeconomic benefits for the wider municipal and provincial communities, as well as the provincial and national fiscus.
“Environmental, social and corporate governance is the key focus for us to transform our communities, transform our workplace and transform our planet accordingly. “We are fully focused on robust community programmes to serve 100% of our host communities, create the best workplace for our employees and develop a full green energy solution to reduce carbon emissions to nil.”
Moreover, he adds VZI aims to ensure that more women are represented in the mining industry, with 19% of VZI’s current workforce comprising women. The company hopes to increase female representation across management by 40% by 2025, and 50% across management by 2035.
“At VZI, there is a strong focus on the employment and career advancement of women in the workforce. “We also look at internal promotions, prioritising women with potential by placing them into deputy executive committee positions, and providing a strong support and mentoring network, which gives them the opportunity to grow into those positions,” concludes Singla.