There are today a lot of hidden ties between different business sectors and far-flung parts of the world.
And I’m increasingly convinced that many of the global threads in the minerals industry are today running through South Africa.
Most of us know the nation is a critical supplier of gold and platinum. But lesser known is that South Africa also supplies a good chunk of the world’s palladium, chromium, titanium, vanadium, manganese, vermiculite and zirconium.
These are key parts of the global mineral supply chain. And they may be increasingly in jeopardy.
That’s because of a movement afoot to amend South Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
The Act is old (formulated in 2004) and vague. Draft amendments were presented in December. And miners immediately jumped to arms over several of the proposed changes.
These onlookers sent in a slew of suggested revisions to the government. But a “revised” draft unveiled in June showed almost no substantial changes.
The government is now taking comments on the new bill for the next few weeks. After September 6, they will look to go final with the amendments.
A look at some of the proposed changes shows why miners are upset. The new laws may require increased levels of in-country processing of minerals. The code also contemplates a 10% confiscation of revenues for miners with liabilities on old mines. Even those where closure certificates have already been issued.
One of hardest-hitting clauses may be the declaration of strategic minerals. Speculation is the government may look to control supply and pricing of commodities it deems important to national interest.
Coal has already been identified as one of those strategics. And here’s where the unexpected ties come in.
As we’ve discussed, India is ramping up thermal coal demand in a major way. And South Africa is one of the few nations positioned to affordably supply coal there.
India has been increasingly bringing in South African output. But that could change quickly if a strategic declaration is made. Leaving the Asian coal market even tighter.
Just one example of how this critical juncture for South Africa’s mineral business could pull strings around the world. Keep an eye on this development. And watch for the threads starting to twist (or unravel).