Investment billions are at risk in Limpopo – by Allan Seccombe (Business Day – December 11, 2015)

A MAJOR crisis is brewing in the Steelpoort Valley in Limpopo, where platinum and chrome are mined, putting billions of rand of investments in mines and smelters under threat of suspension or closure.

Chrome and platinum prices have fallen and the production challenge caused by violence is putting an extra strain on the producers of the minerals.

Mining-related businesses there employ 25,000 people and any suspension or closure of mines and smelters there would have potentially crippling consequences.

A Greater Tubatse Municipality document for this year shows unemployment in south-eastern Limpopo soaring from 41% to 56% as the population there grows a projected 34% to 580,000 people.

A delegation of mine officials intends meeting the ministers of mineral resources and safety and security to discuss the deterioration of law and order in the area and its effect on decisions to keep their operations open or to suspend them. The firms include Glencore, Northam Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, China’s ASA Metals, Samancor and African Rainbow Minerals.

Asked how real the chance was of mining firms suspending billions in investments, one executive said their hands were being forced by increasingly violent protests that prevented workers from going to work and put their safety at risk.

“We could either take the pain of shutting down for three to six months, while this gets resolved and have a sustainable operating environment for years ahead, or we could carry on like we are now, with mines and smelters shut down every time there’s violence or a protest — and it’s happening more regularly now — and eventually lose the support of our shareholders to continue operations here,” according to the executive.

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