Research, development and innovation could hold many solutions to the difficulties facing South Africa's minerals sector, says the Director-General of the Department of Science and Technology, Phil Mjwara.

 

Speaking at the Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI) conference in Limpopo this week, Dr Mjwara said enhancing existing linkages along the minerals value chain through more advanced technologies, could potentially lead to growth and development, and contribute towards ensuring the long-term viability and sustainability of the minerals sector.

 

Progress in the beneficiation of the country's rich mineral endowments came under the spotlight at the annual conference, attended by researchers, and industry and government stakeholders in the precious metals sector.

 

The Precious Metals Development Network hosted this gathering of platinum group metals and gold sector stakeholders from 18 to 19 October 2017, tasked with innovating and developing technologies and products across the advanced metal value chain.

 

The strategic objective of the AMI is to generate economic growth, skills and increased competitiveness through targeted research, development and innovation programmes. Part of the conference's objectives was to explore alternatives in making South Africa's mining business globally attractive and competitive.

 

Dr Mjwara said while the Department of Science and Technology was championing the AMI, a strategic materials science research and development programme, the overall objective was for a coordinated programme to inform research direction and investment.

 

"We hold the view that finding solutions to problems affecting our country, continent and the world requires collaborative research on a local, regional and international scale. In addition, improved levels of international collaboration, as well as collaboration and partnerships between government and academia can help drive human capital development, thereby developing the next generation of skills," said the Director-General.

 

The conference occurred at the time when South Africa's platinum mines are losing money with the Chamber of Mines estimating that 65% of platinum operations are affected nationally.

 

South Africa has shifted from a primary and secondary economy in the mid-twentieth century to an economy driven primarily by the tertiary sector, which accounts for about 65% of gross domestic product with mining being the main driving force behind the history and development of the economy.

 

The country's total mineral reserves remain some of the world's most valuable, with an estimated worth of $2,5 trillion. However, this still has to translate to downstream beneficiation, which calls for dedicated interventions to realise a competitive advantage for the mineral beneficiation industries.

 

This potential wealth does not mean much if its proceeds do not address the poverty and inequalities that have until now undermined the development and prosperity of our country, said the Director-General.