The government of South Africa is committed to creating a thriving and successful mining industry, the Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu said yesterday.
Addressing hundreds of policymakers and delegates from mining companies from around the world at the 19th Mining Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTCC), Shabangu pointed out that the country was heading for its fifth consecutive national election, which confirmed the stability of South Africa's "hard-earned democracy".
She said the African National Congress (ANC) had reconfirmed at its Manguang conference in December that nationalisation of the mining sector would not be carried out in South Africa.
"I would like to affirm that our government is fully conscious of the reality that mineral development cannot happen unless capital is invested by the private sector.
"There is room for both private and public returns, indeed these are interdependent," she said.
She pointed out that the process of hiving off the state-owned mining company, African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation, from the Central Energy Fund was at an advanced stage.
Work together to avoid a repeat of Marikana
She said the mining industry represented an important part of the kind of society envisaged by the National Development Plan, but added that there was a need to address the historical structure of the mining sector and for mines to work together to avoid any repeat of Marikana.
Regulatory reform had unlocked the development potential of the country's mining industry, she said, pointing out that the number of mines had increased from 993 in 2004 to 1,600 today, while associated revenue grew from R98bn in the same year, to R370bn by the end of 2011.
Enrolment in engineering for woman has doubled since 1996, with the number of enrolments from men also up, which Shabangu said was encouraging.
However, she said there was a need for the industry to focus on building skills as part of its long term strategic vision, adding that this must include collaboration and support for research and development.
To improve safety standards in the sector, her department plans to this year introduce the amendments to the Mine, Health and Safety Act, she said.
Shabangu also thanked outgoing Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll for "setting the stage" for women in global companies.
Briefing the media following her address, Shabangu said South Africa's strengths are that it has a good regulatory framework and strong financial system, good infrastructure and a constitution that guarantees rights for all.
Another strength is the country's recent history of promoting relations between the government, business and labour when it makes key decisions.
She said delays in mining licenses are caused by the quality of the application and applicants at times taking long to come back to the department when additional information was required in support of applications.
To speed up applications, her department was in talks with the Department of Water Affairs to allow for simultaneous applications for water licences when mining licence applications are lodged.
"Our experience is that the delays are caused by the applicants... some of the applications they submit are incomplete or the information given is not sufficient for us to process the prospecting license," she said.