The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity to construct a stronger economic system that’s resilient within the face of future threats. One of many key areas the place South Africa can maximise its potential for financial progress is the beneficiating extracted minerals.
“Traditionally, exports of extracted minerals have been predominantly with low ranges of worth addition – we’ve allowed Africa’s mineral wealth to be stripped and shipped, with out maximising direct profit to the nations. If we as a continent beneficiated our personal uncooked supplies, progress would emanate by means of a variety of avenues, together with industrialisation, which might lead to higher returns,” says Dr Hudson Mtegha, mining engineer and mineral economist.
Beneficiation is the method of enhancing or including financial worth to extracted uncooked supplies, reworking them into increased worth merchandise, which may then be consumed regionally or exported. The method itself is vitality intensive, and requires a constant provide of low price vitality with a purpose to be efficient. This presents the biggest barrier to native beneficiation in South Africa – and the remainder of the continent.
The African Union Infrastructure Outlook 2040 report means that vitality demand in Africa is predicted to extend on the fee of 5.1% yearly by means of to 2040. “This suggests that era should improve by 6% each year to maintain up. Within the meantime, the continent will proceed to depend on fossil fuels for a while, rising at solely 3.7% each year. It’s is crucial that we focus our efforts on securing a clear, environmentally secure and predictable provide of vitality,” he says.
Small sensible steps
Whereas wind and solar-based vitality manufacturing are appropriate for basic energy functions, they could be inadequate for powering beneficiation, since they depend on exterior components. Nuclear vitality might present a extra viable choice, offered native insurance policies are put in place to facilitate a closed nuclear gas cycle sooner or later, to make sure the vitality produced is renewable and sustainable.
“Selling native beneficiation throughout the continent would have direct, optimistic impression on the economies. Native beneficiation would create extra jobs, foster industrialisation as new industries develop to provide inputs from these actions and lead to an general diversification of the economies,” says Mtegha.
Nevertheless, large-scale native beneficiation won’t occur in a single day. African nations should start by taking small, sensible steps in the direction of constructing an financial atmosphere that’s conducive to native beneficiation.
“We have to start by endeavor mineral value-chain analyses to establish alternatives and prices alongside the assorted phases of manufacturing, account for the existence of potential native and regional markets for beneficiated merchandise, and emphasise industrial insurance policies that target eradicating constraints, together with abilities, finance, vitality, transport, water and laws.
“Mining in itself is just not a sustainable sector, since deposits deplete with time, whereas on the identical time compromising the atmosphere. Beneficiation, which is know-how pushed, is the important thing to continued progress throughout the continent. It will enable us to course of decrease high quality deposits, for instance, thereby extending the lives of the business. As soon as competencies are developed, the business could be linked to world chains by processing from different jurisdictions or certainly profit from mental property developed to be used elsewhere,” says Mtegha.