Some longtime enterprises in the country’s storied $24 billion sector have headed for the exits, threatening an already struggling economy
RICHARDS BAY, South Africa—Last May, three men strode into a suburban street and sprayed gunfire into a car, killing mining executive Nico Swart on his way to work.
Mr. Swart, 47 years old, had been a general manager at Richards Bay Minerals, or RBM, which is majority owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto PLC. His murder, which is still under investigation, marked another grim flashpoint in the decline of South Africa’s signature industry.
In June, protesters and looters attacked RBM operations, destroying property and mining equipment. In response, Rio Tinto declared force majeure on all customer contracts at RBM, employing the legal provision that excuses parties from contract terms because of unforeseen circumstances.
South Africa’s $24 billion mining sector, which has provided the raw material for nearly half the gold bullion and gold jewelry ever produced, is waning under the pressure of violent crime, growing costs and regulatory uncertainty, as well as tapped-out mines.
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