3 August 2012

South Africa: Platinum Industry Confronts Challenges

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, the Mining Industry Growth and Development Task Team (MIGDETT) and the chief executives of the South Africa's platinum mining companies met this week to thrash out responses challenges facing the industry.

The meeting in Pretoria was a follow-up on the June meeting, where the task team identified interventions that could assist the sector in the short-term and position it along a sustainable growth trajectory in the medium to long-term.

Initially, some of the challenges identified by the task team are: the supply and demand imbalance that has resulted in surplus platinum on the market, exacerbated by the increased availability of scrap and recycled metal; the low price of PGMs; the substitution of platinum by palladium; and the declining competitiveness of the sector.

As a starting point, parties to the task team agreed that all measures to support the industry would be explored before retrenchments.

They have also committed through this process to limit the number of jobs to be lost, in the short term, and to lay the basis for sustainable growth, competitiveness and labour absorption in the long-term.

"The short to medium-term interventions being developed and interrogated include the commitment to working together to explore mechanisms of cost reduction, for the purpose of improving the viability of the industry and protecting jobs," the ministry said in a statement after the meeting.

There were also suggestions to support increased domestic downstream value addition to platinum group metals (PGMs) as a means of generating demand for platinum, while supporting the objectives of the national beneficiation strategy.

Others included the commitment to exploring other applications and demand drivers of platinum and the commitment to not compromising safety and health standards in efforts to reduce costs.

The long-term strategy involved the parties committing to a programme that will investigate strategies for sustainable growth in the industry by supporting growth and job creation through competitiveness interventions, skills development, increased levels of PGM beneficiation, and the diversification of PGM applications and demand drivers.

The stakeholders also reiterated their support for further constructive engagement on challenges facing South Africa's platinum industry.

 - SANews.gov.za

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