Africa Mining: SA Mining Minister considers invoking ‘use it or lose it’ principle

Gwede-MantasheSpeaking at the official unveiling of the rebranded Minerals Council South Africa (previously the Chamber of Mines), on Wednesday, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe noted that he and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) were unenthusiastic, but willing to make use of the ‘use it or lose it’ principle for mines currently under care and maintenance.

He had previously suggested this approach at his Budget Vote speech, to Parliament, last week.

He believes the high number of shafts under care and maintenance, are negatively impacting on the industry’s production numbers, as well as employment prospects.

Mantashe stated that, in difficult periods, many mine owners placed their assets under care and maintenance despite the fact that there were still lower-grade deposits available for mining.

He suggested that care and maintenance often sterilised economic deposits, which only appeared marginal because of the challenging environment.

“Marginal deposits can only be sustained when mined and combined with high-grade deposits,” Mantashe stated.

He added that those companies placing mines under care and maintenance prematurely should engage with the DMR to explain their reasoning and perhaps find alternative solutions.

He added that the practice of placing mines under care and maintenance contributed to increases in unemployment and illegal mining activity.

Mantashe also dismissed the suggestion that investors and mining companies would balk at the DMR’s recommendation to mine “unprofitable” deposits, noting that a change in mining and processing methods could, “make an unprofitable deposit, profitable.”

To illustrate, he pointed to Harmony Gold’s survival, commenting, “Gold went through a very difficult period between 1997 and 1999. The gold price was $250/oz, and according to reports, Harmony had three months to survive . . . I can’t profess to know what they did, but I know they did something, and now Harmony is the third largest company in South Africa.”

Mantashe commented that he and the council were in the process of finalising the Mining Charter, noting that there are maybe two or three “sticking points” that still need to be resolved. source:

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