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South African mining 'on the rise again'

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Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe emphasised positive developments and untapped potential in South Africa's mining industry during a working visit to Canada this week during which he engaged intensively with mining executives, investors, bankers and asset managers.

During his three-day trip, which ended on Wednesday, Motlanthe also met with members of the Canada-Southern Africa Chamber of Business, visited the Toronto Stock Exchange and paid a courtesy call on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canada is a major investor in South Africa's mining industry, and Motlanthe used his trip to encourage further investment, saying in an interview with Mining Weekly Online in Toronto that mining remained central to South Africa's economy.

"Motlanthe affirmed that the industry was still the country's most significant currency earner and, despite more than a century of intensive exploitation, the industry was but turning over a fresh leaf and poised for significant growth, boosted by newly overhauled mining legislation dealing with inefficiencies, and by lifting domestic beneficiation levels," Mining Weekly reported on Wednesday.

Motlanthe told Mining Weekly that South Africa's mining industry should not be measured solely by the performance of its gold sector, as there were huge proven unexploited deposits in other sectors, including iron ore, diamonds, manganese, platinum and chrome.

On legislation, Motlanthe told miningweekly.com that the upcoming amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act would streamline licence application processes, "shortening the turnaround time for juniors significantly".

At the same time, he said, a great deal of progress had been made in transforming South Africa's mining labour landscape.

"At the moment, we are involved with an all inclusive dialogue, a framework crafted and agreed to by all stakeholders, including organised labour, businesses, affiliated mining houses and government, through which we look at the whole range of archaic practices that serve as irritants today - methods that were previously used to serve the industry very well in terms of securing cheap labour," he told Mining Weekly.

He said there was now wide consensus on how such practices should be reformed.

"We are encouraging mines to look into implementing a shorter six-month work cycle, to allow [migrant] miners to return home more frequently. That is still a work in progress, but we think it will remove many of the social deterrents and irritants of the mining industry."

Addressing members of the Canada-Southern Africa Chamber of Business on Tuesday, Motlanthe described South Africa as a country of contrasts.

"On one hand we have sophisticated and advanced systems, such as those within the financial sector and mining sectors. At the same time, we have the part of South Africa that is underdeveloped, unskilled and poorly educated. These are accumulated disabilities that have confronted our country since 1994."

He said the government was directing resources at these social problems "which, once addressed, will help propel the country forward.

"South Africa and Canada have a lot in common, and Canada has certain strengths that would be of great help for South African development, particularly in areas such as mining, engineering and education. We aim to strengthen and cement the bonds between our two countries."

Motlanthe was accompanied on his trip by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant.

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