Beneficiation  south africa

Coal To Liquid technology

Coal To Liquid technology

The concept of beneficiation is not new in South Africa. For an example, the bulk of the country’s electricity is generated from coal power stations, which consume mere than 50 percent cf the country’s annual production of coal. Consequently, the country’s economic growth was sustained over an extended period, as a result of the globally cost-competitive form of electricity fuelling the economic growth and creating jobs. Currently, new forms of beneficiation opportunities are sought to compliment the conventional electricity generation in the country, which will underpin the much needed economic growth. For instance, alternative forms of energy sources, such as PGM fuel cells, present an opportunity for South Africa to become a prominent player in global manufacturing and distribution of fuel cell components. Additionally, the Coal-To-Liquid technology in South Africa further augments the need for investment in research and technology for prospects of discovering innovative means of optimising utilisation of mineral resources for the benefit of the country.

In lieu of the three spheres of sustainable development, namely environment, social and economic, the introduction of stringent environmental legislation presents opportunities for South Africa to leverage benefit in the balanced approach of implementing the strategy. This leverage will attract investment, technology and skills to expedite growth in the sector. This proposition recognises the importance of the balancing act between much needed socio-economic growth and compliance to established environmental laws of the country.

In 2008. gross revenue from sales of all minerals in South Africa amounted to just below R300 billion. Similarly, just over R86 billion was generated from processing of base metals, precious metals and other minerals, which represented 11 percent of the total volumes of minerals produced. This represents the national opportunity loss in export revenue and employment creation opportunities. Furthermore, beneficiating the minerals to finished consumer goods not only increases the revenue gained from the exploitation of the mineral resource, but also significantly increases labour absorptive capacity of the industry .

Comparative studies on beneficiation show that it is possible to industrialise by leveraging on a country’s natural resources with Government driving the beneficiation initiative as it was done in the NORDIC countries1.

Contrary to the findings of Hausman et at (2007), the 2008 Nobel recipient for economics. Paul Krugman. supports value addition of commodities from producer countries, and also proposes that comparative advantage can be readily translated into competitive advantage, if managed in a coordinated manner. This can be achieved through the optimisation of linkages, which will in turn derive optimal benefit for the source countries, as indicated by the experience of the Nordic countries.

COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

South Africa’s endowment of mineral resources merely presents the country with a comparative advantage for developing downstream beneficiation. However, based on South Africa’s historical mineral industry strength, there is a potential to attract and develop technological excellence in mineral related industries to support side-stream and downstream value addition.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

The South African mining sector has undergone a noteworthy transformation from largely exporting raw minerals to the establishment of value-addition facilities (mineral processing and manufacturing). This has resulted in increased revenues from the ferrous and non-ferrous mineral sectors, with total annual sales of ferro-alloys (representing a percentage of input ores produced in South Africa) exceeding R49 billion in 2008, from a base of R44,98 billion from all ores of ferrous mineral sales generated in the same year. This transition has partly resulted in the construction of a number of large scale resource-based investment projects, such as Columbus Stainless Steel. Saldanha Steel. Lion Ferro-chrome smelter and others. This demonstrates the country’s state of readiness for value addition albeit currently in a less orderly manner, the strategy seeks to streamline the value addition programs in South Africa and expedite further development of the sector.

South Africa continues to upgrade and create essential infrastructure, including an extensive transport network (road. rail, ports and pipelines), information and communications infrastructure and has a highly advanced financial and banking system. Well established and reputable technology and training institutions can be readily resourced to advance skills and technology development that is required for industrialisation. As a result of this focused investment, the country is best positioned to take full advantage of value addition programs.

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