Baxter queries SA’s Fraser Institute ranking as Minerals Council members not participants

Roger Baxter, CEO, Minerals Council

SOUTH Africa’s ranking in the bottom ten of the world’s mining destinations was neither correct nor fair, according to Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter although he acknowledged the country should be in the “bottom half” of the rankings.

The rankings – prepared annually by the Canadian based Fraser Institute – placed South Africa at 75th out of 84 ranked countries for 2021. This compares with a position of 60 out of 77 countries in 2020 and 40 out of 76 in 2019. South Africa also ranks at 12 out of 15 African jurisdictions assessed in the survey.

Baxter commented at a media conference held at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town that, “… this ranking was deeply disappointing, but it is interesting that a number of the members of the Minerals Council were not invited to participate in the survey. The two members that were invited did not participate in the survey.

“So you have a survey about South Africa which does not include South Africa. The Fraser Institute sends the survey to 2,000 companies and there is a 17% response rate, but those are mostly exploration companies located around the world and most of those are not located in South Africa”.

Baxter added: “We agree that there are serious issues in the industry such as security and there are significant structural constraints in the country, but my view is that the current ranking is not where we should be. We should not be ranked there. We should be round about the 60 level which is still in the bottom half.

“We were hoping that the exploration plan and a commitment by the government to resolve the outstanding exploration licences would be a step in the right direction but that’s still being worked on.

“We are disappointed that the government took so long to produce the exploration plan.  We are still involved in a detailed discussion on the plan itself because we are still within the comment period during which we can provide inputs to government, so I cannot share with you some of our  specific concerns at this stage.”

Baxter has been involved for more than a decade in negotiations and discussions with the South African government over improving the regulatory situation for the mining industry.  He has been consistently optimistic over the outcome despite the lack of real positive developments on the ground.

In June last year, Baxter told Miningmx he would be “deeply disappointed” if the mining industry did not have a new mineral cadastre system by August along with the publication of an exploration strategy.

South Africa still does not have the promised mineral cadastre system and the Minerals Council is clearly unhappy with the draft exploration strategy published in April.

Asked whether he was an “eternal optimist”, Baxter replied. “It’s a bit like capital projects. You often have to double the time and the cost. I have become known as ‘Frank’ Baxter because I have become a lot more direct than I have been for a long time. We say it as we see it.”

Asked whether the South African government actually understood and accepted the critically important economic role of the mining industry to the country, Baxter replied: “I think there is a strong appreciation and recognition on the side of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

“I believe there is a broader appreciation amongst cabinet ministers and at the presidential level that mining has played a significant role and can play a greater role if we get exploration working to the extent that we think it can.”