Mining CEO defends officials
• Pan African’s Loots praises the positive attitude of government departments in approving permits for Elikhulu
At a time when general sentiment on the Department of Mineral Resources and its minister, Mosebenzi Zwane is negative and hostile, Pan African Resources CEO Cobus Loots speaks of a more constructive relationship and accuses some companies of hiding behind criticism of the department to cover their inefficiency.
At a time when the general sentiment towards the Department of Mineral Resources and minister Mosebenzi Zwane is negative and hostile, Pan African Resources CEO Cobus Loots speaks of a more constructive relationship and accused some companies of hiding behind criticism of the department to cover their inefficiency.
Loots spoke of the welcoming and helpful attitude of officials from the department and their counterparts at water affairs in approving permits needed for the R1.74bn Elikhulu tailings retreatment project at Pan African’s Evander mine that will add 56,000oz of gold a year to the group.
“Co-operation from all stakeholders on Elikhulu has been excellent,” Loots said.
“The Department of Mineral Resources and Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation have been incredibly professional and extremely efficient in interrogating and progressing the requisite applications and permits,” he said.
His comments echo those of Northam officials at the new Booysendal mine, who spoke of a nurturing and professional relationship between the company and the regional office of the minerals department as the platinum company developed new mines in the impoverished area near Steelpoort, Limpopo.
Bucking the trend of criticising the department, Loots said sometimes mining companies had an ulterior motive for doing so. “SA is difficult, but we manage to operate successfully here. It’s easy to complain about the environment. We have a lot of challenges, make no mistake. The regulatory uncertainty really needs to be resolved,” he said. “Often companies, to mask their own issues, put blame on the government, which is not always appropriate.
“There are a lot of people in the government who want to see growth.”
Pan African was recently outbid for an acquisition in Africa that would have given it geographical diversity. However, the debate at board level was about the appetite for Africa compared with exploiting the resource base at Evander, with its large infrastructure footprint and the highly prospective nature of its Barberton land holding, where Loots wants to invest heavily in exploration.
The project, which will produce 56,000oz for the first eight years of its life, will pay back the capital investment in four years once it is commissioned at the end of 2018. The milliontonnes-a-month plant will be the biggest tailings retreatment facility the company has, far larger than the other two tailings retreatment operations it has at Evander and Barberton.
All together, the tailings retreatment projects will account for 90,000oz of lowcost gold output for the group a year at a cost of $516/oz, comprising a third of the group’s gold production. Elikhulu will produce 48,000oz annually in its final six years.