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How South Africa Leads the World in Mining Community Engagement

Australian miner praises South Africa’s local and community engagement in manganese mining, while the state-owned IDC funds a foreign competitor in Botswana.

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa’s mining industry has been praised by an Australian-listed company for its excellence in local and community engagement, which sets it apart from its international peers.

Jupiter Mines, which owns 49.9% of the Tshipi manganese mine in South Africa’s Northern Cape, told its shareholders at its annual general meeting (AGM) in Perth, Western Australia, that the South African mining industry’s local engagement and community promotion was unrivaled, thanks to its early start in 1994 under the King Report of Corporate Governance.

Jupiter’s chairperson Ian Murray said: “This is a very strong base from which we intend to grow. I want to note the tremendous local and community engagement, which is so important in today’s world of mining.”

The controlling shareholder of the long-life, low-cost Tshipi is South Africa’s Ntsimbintle Mining, chaired by Saki Macozoma.

Jupiter, which reported net profit after tax of $ 76.5 million for the financial year ended February, has achieved an average dividend yield that is more than double the average dividend yield of the Australian Stock Exchange. It has also paid more than 100% of its current market capitalization in dividends in the last five years, from a mine that still has more than 100 years of life.

Jupiter and South Africa’s Manganese Metal Co (MMC) are both aspiring to produce high-purity manganese sulfate monohydrate (HPMSM) for the battery electric vehicle (BEV) and battery energy markets, using South African ore, which is renowned for its quality.

HPMSM is a key ingredient in the cathode of electric vehicle batteries, which can introduce cost-efficient energy density and potential safety enhancements. The demand for battery-grade manganese is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, as the global transition to low-carbon mobility accelerates.

However, while Jupiter has produced a 99.9%-pure HPMSM sample using a proprietary hydrometallurgical production process, MMC, which has been producing the world’s purest manganese metal in the form of selenium-free electrolytic manganese metal (EMM) for 49 years, has been struggling to secure funding for its HPMSM project.

Ironically, the South Africa-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which is supposed to support local beneficiation and industrialization, has decided to fund a foreign-owned HPMSM project in Botswana, ahead of financing MMC’s project in South Africa.

The IDC has invested $ 16 million in Giyani Metals, a Canada-listed company that intends to use the manganese that it mines in Botswana to produce HPMSM. Giyani plans to build a demonstration plant in South Africa and a commercial plant in Botswana, using a special economic zone status.

The IDC’s corporate affairs head Tshepo Ramodibe told Mining Weekly that the IDC invests not only in South Africa but also in the rest of the continent, particularly in the Southern Africa Development Community, and that regional development benefits flow to both the host country and South Africa.

He also said that the IDC was still in talks with MMC and was evaluating the project’s potential benefits.

MMC, which has 400 direct employees and 200 indirect contractor employees, earned South Africa R2.28 billion in export revenue in its last financial year, exporting mainly through the ports of Maputo and Durban, and paid R179 million to the South African fiscus in taxes.

MMC’s CEO Johan Kriek told Mining Weekly that MMC was ready to go ahead with a 5 000 t/y demonstration plant in Mbombela in South Africa, and that once its accredited HPMSM goes into the batteries of the world, its local operation would be able to put South Africa on the map.

He also said that MMC was committed to being clean and green, as it had secured 1.8 MW of hydropower from a power station on the Crocodile River and was engaged in circularity with its waste, which was turned into bricks for the benefit of the local community.

Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair described MMC as a “South African industrial jewel” that could be much bigger than what it is today.

He said: “It’s a one-of-a-kind company that we should support on its growth trajectory. The company’s vision is fully aligned with the objectives of the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan and the industrialization of renewable energy and battery storage value chains in South Africa.”

With the right incentives, commercial HPMSM plants would likely be built in South Africa because of the major endowment of quality manganese ore that the Kalahari manganese field hosts. But that would also have to be underpinned by better logistical performance.

If South Africa plays its cards right, local operations will be able to earn very important export revenues for this country, while also contributing to the global fight against climate change by enabling the production of greener vehicles and energy systems.

Source: Mining Weekly

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