from the ed­i­tor

Finweek English Edition - - Contents - JANA MARAIS

my room­mate at var­sity had a fridge mag­net that reg­u­larly made us both feel guilty at 2AM the morn­ing be­fore an exam, when we were painfully aware that we’d skipped too many lec­tures and hadn’t stud­ied enough. “One of the great­est tragedies in life is to watch po­ten­tial die un­tapped,” it read.

I was re­minded of this quote by the Ba­hamian evan­ge­list Myles Mun­roe over the week­end while chat­ting to Thabo Mashigo, a 48-year-old mineworker who spent 19 years toil­ing at Blyvooruitzicht mine near Car­letonville un­til it was placed un­der pro­vi­sional liq­ui­da­tion in 2013. He has been un­able to find a job since; a fate likely await­ing most of the 8 500 minework­ers An­gloGold Ashanti plans to re­trench. More South Africans with skills and job ex­pe­ri­ence, a steady salary and fam­i­lies to sup­port, and of­ten in the prime of life, sud­denly left to sur­vive “by God’s grace” – Mashigo’s ex­pla­na­tion of how he and his fam­ily have coped.

There are com­mer­cial rea­sons be­hind both the Blyvoor and An­gloGold sit­u­a­tions that can be de­bated at length. For me, the tragedy lies in the un­tapped po­ten­tial in South Africa’s min­ing sec­tor, which we seem­ingly all feel com­fort­able de­scrib­ing as a “sun­set in­dus­try” that is be­yond re­demp­tion.

This is pure non­sense, of course. We re­main richly en­dowed with min­eral re­sources, in­clud­ing the rich­est known de­posits of plat­inum group met­als, and among the largest re­serves of gold, di­a­monds, chromite ore and vana­dium, ac­cord­ing to the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey. Man­ganese and iron ore are also in plen­ti­ful sup­ply. In short, our min­ing in­dus­try should be boom­ing, and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple like Mashigo should be find­ing their skills in high de­mand. (Also see page 36.)

The prob­lem with min­eral de­posits is that they are com­pletely worth­less un­less some­one is will­ing to put in mil­lions of dol­lars to ex­tract them from the ground. As Re­serve Bank Gover­nor Le­setja Kganyago said in Par­lia­ment re­cently, you sim­ply can­not change the “min­ing pol­icy of a coun­try ev­ery time there is a change of min­is­ter or gov­ern­ment” – which is ex­actly what we’ve been do­ing over the past two decades.

This is why our min­ing com­pa­nies (such as Sibanye) and tal­ented ex­ec­u­tives (think Rand­gold Re­sources’ Mark Bris­tow) are in­vest­ing their cap­i­tal and skills in coun­tries with more reg­u­la­tory sta­bil­ity – for Bris­tow, that in­clude places like Ivory Coast, Mali and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

What politi­cians are do­ing to our min­ing sec­tor isn’t a tragedy. It’s trea­son. ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.