South African miners better find business somewhere else: report

Business prospects for South African miners this year are likely to be everywhere but in their own country, Ursula van Eck, mining head of business advisory firm BDO told MiningWeekly.com.

Van Eck sees a number of challenges within the country, including global downward pressure on commodity prices, the potential classification of coal as a strategic mineral, nationalization of mining, fallout from labour disputes, and uncertainty about the introduction of a super-tax on mining companies.

According to the expert, companies do not need to go too far, as there are plenty of opportunities on the same continent, where more investor-friendly conditions prevail.

“For foreign investors and South African companies willing to take the risk and try something new, going up into Africa could provide the growth opportunities that are currently lacking locally,” van Eck was quoted as saying.

In November, Statistics South Africa showed what high a price the country’s economy has paid since August last year, when police shot and killed 34 protesters outside Lonmin's (LON:JSE) Marikana platinum mine, northwest of Johannesburg.

Mining output dropped 8.3% on the year in September. The annual fall, the biggest in five months, was sharper than the 4.5% economists had forecasted as strikes crippled the industry, which accounts for 6% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Despite setbacks in the global economy, sub-Saharan Africa was expected to grow at 4.8% last year, broadly unchanged from the 4.9% growth rate registered in 2011 and largely on track, according to the World Bank’s latest report.

In Africa’s Pulse, released last October, the institution highlights that new discoveries of oil, gas, and other minerals in the continent will generate a wave of significant mineral wealth.

However, a recent report warns about some of South Africa’s neighbours, as quite risky for miners. According to UK-based risk consultancy Maplecroft, Somalia is the most risky mining jurisdiction in terms of expropriation threats, followed closely by Eritrea and resource-rich Guinea.

High up in the list figured the Democratic Republic of Congo (4), Libya (6), and Equatorial Guinea.

(Image by Nationaal Archief)

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