CAPE TOWN (miningweekly.com) – South Africa’s Bushveld Complex was the country’s largest but least-mined iron-ore resource, independent South African mineral policy analyst Paul Jourdan told the International Mining and Metals third African Iron Ore conference here on Tuesday.
While the Bushveld hosted between 25-billion tons and 27-billion ton of iron-ore, it was the Kalahari basin with 3-billion tons in the Northern Cape where most of the mining was under way.
“The future resources are very much in the Bushveld Complex,” said the former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) deputy director-general and former Mintek head, who is currently working with the DTI, the Department of Mineral Resources, the Department of Science and Technology and the State-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) on mineral value chain development.
Kumba Iron Ore was by far the largest miner, followed by Assmang, Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium and smaller start-ups. South African production was now at some 55-million tons a year, with plans for expansion.
Reflecting on the opportunities for iron-ore beneficiation in South Africa, he said that, while there were different definitions of beneficiation, the correct one was the total domestic value addition embodied in the final exports, excluding all imported inputs.
In terms of that definition, the total beneficiation of a smelting operation for nickel, for example, which had a numbr of imported inputs, might be lower than for a mining operation of another mineral, because of the imported content.
“The broader definition looks at both the backward and forward linkages,” Jourdan said.
There were also two beneficiation methodologies. The supply-side methodology was based on building industries on the basis of having a rare commodity. The other was a demand-side methodology, which could be based on the need for jobs. In that regard, there was nothing to beat manufacturing. “If you look globally in the last ten years, 800-million jobs were created in manufacturing. It’s quite clear that there’s nothing like manufacturing to create jobs,” he added.
South Africa, in need of jobs, should focus on the critical mineral inputs that create jobs. According to that logic, the DTI had made steel its priority because it was by far the most important feedstock. Total global consumption of steel at 1.5-billion tons a year was ten times more than all the other metals combined.
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