By Rob Tyson
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — February 8, 2024 — In a pivotal moment at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, Deputy Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Dr. Nobuhle Nkabane issued a stern warning to beneficiaries of the newly inaugurated small-scale mining fund: the fund will be closely monitored to ensure its intended use.
Addressing a predominantly female audience during a panel discussion, Nkabane emphasized the importance of responsible fund management, cautioning against the misuse of the financial support for extravagant purchases, such as Lamborghinis. This statement underscores the government’s commitment to fostering a disciplined and impactful use of resources in the mining sector.
“We want to make sure that if you get that funding it is going to be monitored. If you get that fund you need to do what is expected of you not to go shopping and buy Lamborghinis.”Dr. Nobuhle Pamela Nkabane, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources & Energy
The R25 million small-scale mining fund, structured as a repayable loan, is designed to support small mining companies that hold valid mining permits, enabling them to acquire essential rehabilitation and capital equipment. Administered by the Industrial Development Corporation, the fund is poised to contribute to job creation, highlighting the government’s focus on economic empowerment and sustainability within the mining industry. Nkabane also hinted at the potential for increasing the fund’s budget in the coming financial year, aiming to extend its benefits to a broader demographic, including women, the youth, and individuals with disabilities.
This initiative is part of a broader strategy to enhance the competitiveness of small mining companies and comes on the heels of the launch of a R400 million exploration fund. This larger fund is aimed at stimulating new mining ventures by providing junior mining enterprises with financial support for prospecting activities, thereby facilitating access to mine ore bodies. These measures collectively represent a significant investment in the future of South Africa’s mining industry, particularly in terms of exploration and small-scale mining.
The discussion at the Mining Indaba also shed light on the challenges faced by women in the mining sector, including underrepresentation and sexual harassment. Nkabane’s announcement of the diggers’ programme, which has empowered 223 women to become diggers, with eight already applying for small-scale mining permits, marks a positive step towards gender inclusivity in the industry. However, Rashka Naidoo, chair of Women in Mining SA, highlighted the persistent issue of sexual harassment and the tendency to treat gender-based assessments as mere formalities, thus undermining the real progress towards equality.
Furthermore, Ege Tekinbas, a senior policy adviser for gender equity at the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals, and Sustainable Development, pointed out the challenges posed by technological advancements. According to the World Economic Forum, these advancements could render 20% of large-scale mining operations redundant within two years, with women, particularly those in low to mid-skilled positions, facing the highest risk of redundancy.
“A lot of research gets done in mining houses but doesn’t get revealed because a lot of people are doing gender-based assessments as tick-box exercises. People are being appointed to do things just to tick a box so there is a quota that is reached and everybody is happy because on paper it looks better.”Rashka Naidoo, Chair of Women in Mining SA
The Mining Indaba’s discussions and announcements reflect a multifaceted approach to addressing the challenges and opportunities within South Africa’s mining industry. The new small-scale mining fund, coupled with the exploration fund and initiatives like the diggers’ programme, signify a concerted effort to promote sustainable development, gender equality, and economic empowerment. As the industry moves forward, the monitoring and responsible management of these funds will be crucial in achieving their intended impact, ensuring that they serve as catalysts for positive change rather than mere financial injections. The emphasis on accountability and targeted support suggests a promising path towards a more inclusive and prosperous mining sector in South Africa.