SOUTH Africa needs to get “the red tape out of the way” to encourage the development of junior miners in the country and the decision to combine the energy portfolio with the former Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) was not helping.
That’s the view of Orion Minerals CEO, Errol Smart, who is also the chair of the junior and emerging miners’ forum and representative on the board of the Minerals Council.
Speaking at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town earlier this month, Smart commented: “The more red tape that’s involved the easier it is to move next door and that’s what’s happening.
“We have fantastic geology – better than Botswana or Namibia – but those countries are attracting more investment than South Africa in junior mining. We have fantastic infrastructure and fantastic skills and abilities to do stuff, but we are not going to manage to do it until it is easier to do it.”
“I find it a bit disappointing that we have a DMR which is now a DMRE because there’s a whole extra can of worms that has been inherited. I just think they are spread too thin and, if you are spread too thin, things start falling apart.”
Orion is a JSE and ASX-listed junior developing the Prieska copper-zinc deposit in the Northern Cape. Asked why he was involved in South Africa as a junior miner despite this situation, Smart replied: “If you find something exceptional you will go anywhere despite the challenges.
“If you have a world-class orebody people will come. I was able to convince enough investors that, even, with the challenges, it was worth taking on.
“But my investors backed me on one fundamentally important thing which was that I had to get really involved and go in to make a change. That’s why I got involved in the Minerals Council and in the negotiations over the Charter.”
Asked just how realistic were the chances of achieving such fundamental changes in Government’s attitude, Minerals Council junior and emerging miners’ desk executive Grant Mitchell said: “We are chipping away and we have to keep this lobby going. I think we have at least opened the door”.
Said Smart: “There’s a very lively debate between us and the DMR and the minister. What tells me we are winning is that they take the time to listen. Where has a minister agreed to sit and debate and be interviewed on a stage by the representative of the junior miners in the country? When did that last happen?
“That tells me they know it’s important and they are paying attention. We see changes happening although they are irritatingly slow and we see the minister putting pressure on his colleagues in the cabinet.
“We are having a tax discussion. We attend meetings with Eskom. There’s a long way to go but they are starting to listen and engage.”