DESPITE having re-mortgaged his house, and selling everything else he owned, Sifiso Nkosi quickly ran out of money. That’s how it is in the mining exploration game where it costs R1,000 to R1,500 per metre to drill the earth, and where potential resources considered shallow require several hundred metres of drilling.
And that’s just for knowledge. Paying for that knowledge can be a painful exercise when all you might learn is that there’s no minerals.
“To cut a long story short, we entered into a joint venture to try and get people to come and assist for the expansion,” said Nkosi of his plan to drill for anthracite in KwaZulu-Natal province. “They were not there to assist for the expansion; they were there to add into their portfolio so they could go outside and still attract more capital using us as an asset that’s written into their portfolio,” he said.
The lack of available capital is the single most important restriction for aspirant miners in South Africa. In the case of Nkosi, and his Nthuthuko Exploration and Mining, the outcome was disappointment, but he isn’t deterred. “I left a very successful IT career, the highest paying career [line of work] in the whole world right now, for a career with uncertainty. But you’d rather die for a cause you’re called to than to live for someone else’s,” he said.
As a percentage of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), mining comprised some 8%, which is equal to R335bn in 2017. But this doesn’t quite tell the whole story of South Africa mining’s position in the economy.