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South Africa’s Sibanye says sacks 1,500 workers over wildcat strike

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By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African mining firm Sibanye Gold has fired around 1,500 workers taking part in a wildcat strike at its Cooke mine, it said on Thursday, prompting an angry reaction from the biggest gold miners’ union.

Workers at the mine downed tools over a week ago, angered by a company drive to root out illegal miners which has included the arrest of employees for collusion and taking food down to the illegal miners working underground.

Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades, with bullion pilfered from both disused and operating mines, and Sibanye has vowed it will clear all illegal miners from its shafts by January 2018.

The Cooke mine employs close to 4,000 underground miners and Sibanye said the sacked workers could appeal their dismissals.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest union in the gold mining industry, said earlier that nearly 2,000 miners were fired, including 1,100 of its members, who it said had been “wrongly dismissed.”

Sibanye said 793 NUM members had been dismissed.

NUM said they had been forced to take part in the strike in the face of coercion and intimidation from rival union the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). Last week 16 NUM members at Cooke were assaulted.

AMCU officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Located about 60 kms(35 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, the Cooke mine produces about 181,700 ounces of gold a year and brings in around 377 million rand ($29 million) in operating profit, or just over 6 percent of the group’s total.

Over 240 illegal miners have been arrested since the stoppage began. They have been forced to come to the surface because of the strike, which has emptied the shafts of employees, thereby starving them of their sources of food and water underground – an unintended consequence of the strike.


(Writing by and additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter)


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Congo copper output falls 14% in H1 on lower prices

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KINSHASA (Reuters) – Copper output in Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s top producer, fell 14 percent in the first half of 2016 to 466,250 tonnes as a global price slump led some mines to suspend production, the central bank said on Tuesday.

The decline is hammering the economy of the country, which derives about 95 percent of its export earnings from extractive industries.

In June, the government slashed its budget by 22 percent in response to low commodity revenues.

Congo, among the world’s top copper producers, produced 990,000 tonnes of the metal in 2015, down from 1.03 million tonnes the year before.

In a weekly report, the central bank also said production of cobalt, the metal used in lithium-ion batteries and of which Congo is the world’s leading producer, slid by 13 percent to 35,267 tonnes over the same period.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange lost 25 percent of its value in 2015 and has recovered only slightly this year, while cobalt prices are also down about 14 percent from this time last year.

Glencore’s Katanga unit, one of the country’s largest copper and cobalt producers, announced an 18-month suspension of operations last September and thousands of jobs have been lost in the sector since then as companies cut costs.


(Reporting by Aaron Ross; editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Jason Neely)

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South Africa Looks to Modern Mining for Youth Empowerment

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youth in mining summit

South Africa’s mining industry to make use of non-traditional programs to empower youth

Even in 2016, the term “mining” brings to mind images of dust-covered coal miners with pickaxes. South Africa is rolling out a youth empowerment program in urban mining through its state-run mining and metallurgical entity, Mintek, that couldn’t be more different. Contrary to what its name suggests, urban mining does not involve any actual resource extraction. Urban mining is the slightly more glamorous and modern-day version of dumpster diving: this field re-appropriates pre-existing materials, such as recycled glass, into commercially viable semi-luxury goods.

At a recent South African conference, the Youth Mining Summit, government officials spoke about their desire to empower South Africa’s youth to look into the mining sector for jobs. The Youth Mining Summit occurred in mid-June, over the 40th anniversary of the infamous SOWETO Uprisings. To commemorate the historic youth uprising, South Africa dedicates each June to focus on youth development issues. This year, Deputy Director General of Mineral Regulation Joel Raphaela discussed the government’s efforts to encourage more young South Africans to go into the mining industry: “We continue to reach the youth through the department Learner Week Programs, where we create mining awareness by organizing mine visits around the country.” This sort of exposure, Raphaela hopes, will show young people from diverse backgrounds and educational qualifications that there are numerous job opportunities within the mining sector.

One Man’s Waste

Mintek Small Scale Mining & Beneficiation Program

Mintek Small Scale Mining & Beneficiation Program

An important component of this effort is the training and mentorship opportunities available to interested youth. Since 1934, Mintek has been South Africa’s leading mining and metallurgical research and development center. As South Africa begins to put a more visible emphasis upon black empowerment, Mintek is an integral part of a youth development program that looks to train young people in marketable metallurgy. Mintek emphasizes its newly branded urban mining program as the future for sustainable employment. A simple example of urban mining is the creation of glass beads from recycled bottles: Mintek provides training in all of the skills needed to turn glass bottles into beautiful jewelry with everything from different crushing techniques to the variety of ways to melt and re-purpose crushed glass. According to Mintek, “Urban mining presents numerous opportunities for young people to use urban waste to manufacture saleable products, without necessarily having a higher education qualification. The glass bead manufacturing process is a great example of this.”

Last year, Mintek provided 148 youth with practical training in partnership with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), and the Department of Science and Technology. Thirty-six of these graduates have been placed in foundries across the country, where they continue to grow their theoretical and practical skill sets in the metallurgical field. Unemployed graduates from previously disadvantaged groups have the opportunity to receive further training in the field of occupational hygiene, surveying, mining, electrical and mechanical engineering. Not only is Mintek providing hands-on training, but it is working with local governments to set up training centers in the Northern Cape. Two such centers were established in Upington and Prieska, where students can get practical training for making jewelry from locally-mined semi-precious stones.

A Diamond in the Rough

South Africa’s mining stretches beyond metallurgy and re-appropriation of urban waste to the most glittering of all gems: diamonds. After the 2015 launch of the South African Young Diamond Beneficiators Guild, a collective of predominantly black-owned small and emerging diamond manufacturers, young adults were accepted into training programs to learn the cutting and polishing techniques employed to refine rough diamonds. 25 of the young trainees were accepted into a two-year training program based in Italy, but will also travel to Switzerland to learn about the technical art of watchmaking.

A watchmaking teaching curriculum is currently being developed in South Africa. Once it is completed and through the approval process, South Africa would be able to teach the special skill set for the first time in its history.

Digging Deep to Lift Up Youth

All of these initiatives have the same goal: to empower youth with marketable skills that will not only provide them with sustainable income, but will allow them to participate in the global economy. Training programs are blossoming in everything from urban mining to watchmaking, and it seems that this is only the beginning. As Raphaela said, the “economic empowerment of young people is not an option, but a national imperative.”

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Zambia’s H1 copper output rises 8%

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s copper production rose by 8 percent to 368,371 tonnes in the first six months of this year from 340,510 tonnes in the same period last year, the country’s chamber of mines said on Tuesday.

Full-year copper production in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer was expected to rise by 5.4 percent to 750,000 tonnes this year from the 711,515 tonnes produced last year, the chamber said in a statement.


(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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Global demand could boost lithium mining in Zimbabwe

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lithium mining

Companies explore deposits, seek investment as worldwide demand grows for “white petroleum” to power rechargeable batteries.

As global demand for lithium skyrockets, Zimbabwe may increase production of the so-called “white petroleum’’ that powers rechargeable devices including telephones and automobiles.

Tesla’s plans to mass-produce its Model 3 battery-powered car have stoked worldwide demand. Tesla estimated its production target for electric cars alone – 500,000 vehicles by 2020 – could require as much lithium as is already currently being produced.

Zimbabwe, the fifth largest producer of lithium on the planet, could increase its share of a growing market.

Premier African Minerals has begun looking for partners to expand its Lithium and Tantalum mining operations at its Zulu Project in Zimbabwe.

Investors sought

George Roach, Premier’s chief executive officer, said preliminary talks were aimed at identifying parties who might be interested in supporting development.

Premier’s flagship mine is the RHA Tungsten Mine in Zimbabwe and the company has mineral projects across Africa.

Meanwhile, another company, Prospect Resources Ltd., has secured diamond-drilling services for its recently acquired Arcadia Lithium Project in Zimbabwe. The project has set a target of extracting up to 18 million tons of 3-5 percent lithium.

The company said it has raised $2 million of $16 million needed to fast-track exploration.

During intermittent production between 1954 and 1972, the Arcadia mine produced more than 15,000 tons of mixed ore that contained lithium. The mining operation, just 25 miles northeast of Harare, also produces eucryptite, petalite and feldspar.

Australia leads production

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China. Other major producers are Brazil, Portugal and the United States.

Zimbabwe produced 900 metric tons of lithium in 2015. By comparison, top-producer Australia accounted for 13,400 metric tons, Chile for 12,900 metric tons, Argentina for 3,800 metric tons and China for 2,200 metric tons.

The consulting firm Stormcrow Capital projects global demand will outstrip supply by 2023.

Such projections are driving investor interest in lithium, which was the only commodity to increase in price last year. The cost has skyrocketed to $6,400 per ton globally and reportedly to as much as $13,000 on some orders in China.

Zimbabwean mining struggles

Increased lithium production could be a boon for Zimbabwe’s struggling mining sector.

The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe told a recent conference of mining executives that the sector is fragile because of low mineral prices on global markets.

The depressed prices, combined with liquidity challenges as well as power and capital shortages, have resulted in many mining companies struggling to break even.

The sector produces 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of its foreign direct investment and export earnings.

Toindepi Muganyi, president of the Chamber of Mines, told delegates at the Mining, Engineering and Transport conference that the sector had contracted by more than 2 percent for the second year in a row in 2015. Total mineral revenue dropped from $1.9 billion in 2014 to $1.86 billion 2015, he said.

Recovery forecast

In addition to interest in lithium, prices for gold, platinum and nickel were on the rise, Muganyi said, predicting a recovery this year.

The Zimbabwean government in 2014 announced plans to build a lithium processing facility, which could lead the way to manufacturing batteries in the country.

Valentine Vera, metallurgy director in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines and Mining Development said the metal had the potential to drive the nation’s economic growth as global demand grew. However, Vera said the country would need to draw significant investment in order to increase production.

Zimbabwe is a mineral-rich nation with resources that include platinum, gold, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, limestone and phosphates. The country has the second-largest deposits of platinum in the world.

Exploration for lithium is also under way in Mali. Birimiam Limited, a multi-commodity exploration company has significant interests in lithium deposits as well as gold deposits in the West African nation.

Niger, Namibia, Senegal and Ivory Coast also have lithium deposits.

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Kumba appoints new CEO, H1 earnings rise 20%

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Kumba Iron Ore said on Tuesday that Themba Mkhwanazi would take the helm as chief executive from Sept 1, replacing Norman Mbazima, who is stepping down to focus on his role as deputy chairman of Anglo American South Africa.

* Mkhwanazi, a former Rio Tinto manager, has been chief executive officer of Anglo American’s Coal South Africa business since May 2014.

* Kumba’s first-half results came in as expected, with the Anglo American unit posting a 20 percent rise in headline earnings per share to 9.41 rand.

* Kumba had flagged to the market that it expected first-half profit to increase between 14 and 23 percent because of a deferred tax asset in the comparative period.


(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Joe Brock)

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South Africa’s mines minister calls for quick platinum wage deal

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CARLETONVILLE, South Africa (Reuters) – Platinum mining firms and South African trade unions should conclude wage talks quickly to avoid the protracted disputes that led to a five-month strike two years ago, mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Friday.

“I wish that everybody can negotiate with cool heads and avoid a strike and speedily resolve these negotiations,” he told reporters at a Sibanye Gold mine.

Talks between unions and the mining companies started this week.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the biggest union in the sector, is demanding pay hikes of more than 50 percent, while a smaller union, the National Union of Mineworkers, is seeking a 20 percent increase.

The demands are well above inflation at 6.1 percent. Africa’s most developed economy is struggling due to lower commodity prices and drought. The International Monetary Fund estimates almost zero growth this year.

South Africa has the biggest and most lucrative platinum reserves but labour unrest and regulatory uncertainty have dampened investor appeal.

The strike in 2014, which was led by AMCU, hit Anglo American Platinum , Impala Platinum and Lonmin, forcing them to cut jobs, sell mines and, in some cases, make cash calls to investors.


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Joe Brock)

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Romain Girbal: Doing Mining Differently in Africa

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Mining has often been a “dirty” industry, with a history of exploitative social practices and environmental degradation, particularly in Africa. Various treaties and organizations have made efforts to clean up mining practices over the years, but French entrepreneur Romain Girbal has decided to start at the source. He is the president and cofounder of the Responsible Mining Alliance (AMR), a new company that is working to develop responsible mining projects in Africa that respect both the community and the environment. The company has already started its first bauxite mine in Guinea and its passionate leader is looking to expand.

Romain Girbal: From the City to the mines of Africa

Romain Girbal looked set to pursue a career climbing the corporate ladder. He studied business law at the University of Paris X Nanterre and international trade in Madrid. After graduating from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris in 2007, he moved to London and worked in the City as a junior consultant in structured financing for mining behemoth Glencore, where he focused on West Africa and Latin America. Glencore is the world’s largest commodities trading company, with over $170 billion in revenue in 2015. Looking back on his experience there, Girbal notes that “working there allowed me to familiarize myself with the sector and to quickly learn its norms, challenges and growth opportunities.” These lessons helped him to later launch the Responsible Mining Alliance.

In 2008, however, Romain Girbal left Glencore to become the director of the legal department of Harvest Energy Limited (owned by State Oil), a British company working in fuel distribution in several European countries. In his new role, he managed the daily negotiation and drafting of contracts. Girbal soon felt the need for a change, stating, “I then realized that I had more of an entrepreneurial spirit, and I wanted to try out an African adventure.” He joined up with Thibault Launay, a friend he made in London, and the two decided to try to make it on their own.

In 2012, they created Adventure Capital Corporation, a venture capital and consulting firm specializing in mining, oil and gas investments, mostly in Africa. These first steps foreshadowed the creation of the Responsible Mining Alliance in July 2015. This time, Romain Girbal and Thibault Launay set out to develop mining projects in Africa that were responsible both socially and environmentally, an innovative and ambitious vision that would begin to take shape in Guinea.

The Responsible Mining Alliance (AMR) rethinks mining

logo-alliance-mimiere-responsable“With the Responsible Mining Alliance, we wanted to show that you can do mining differently,” declared Romain Girbal in February 2016 when asked about the philosophy of AMR on French business channel BFM. With this credo in mind, the two young French entrepreneurs set up shop in Guinea, persuaded of the enormous potential of mining in this emerging country. The Responsible Mining Alliance now holds a bauxite mining permit in Boké, in the northwest of the country.

Although Romain Girbal and Thibault Launay were eager to jump into the mining sector in Africa, they wanted to do so in a new and ambitious way. This is why the Responsible Mining Alliance goes further, with the goal of doing “socially responsible mining” as they told BFM Business. What does that mean?

“We’re trying to set new standards in the mining industry, first in Guinea where we are starting our operations. We’ve signed partnership agreements with the Boké School of Mining and the Boké Center for Professional Education so that our mining engineers and geologists can give free classes there,” explained Romain Girbal, sincerely motivated by the idea of changing things in an economic sector that has been stained by negative clichés. While the government of Guinea has standards for socially and responsible practices, his group is “working hard to set ever higher standards. Mining is about more than extracting raw materials. It can also be a way to get local communities involved in mining by starting win-win partnerships for everybody.”

The Responsible Mining Alliance’s vision could be summed up in a few key points: following high social standards, respecting the environment, favoring local employment as much as possible and training engineers and workers through partnerships. These aren’t just pretty words; as Romain Girbal likes to point out, “For us, we consider it a requirement. In terms of employment, for example, right now we are only a small team in Guinea, but 18 of our 21 employees are Guineans.”

romain-girbal-photo-conseil-administration-alliance-miniere-tesponsableThe high standards Girbal has set for his project have attracted outside attention as well: in January 2016, Xavier Niel, the famous French billionaire and boss of telecom operator Free, decided to invest in the Responsible Mining Alliance via his personal holding company NJJ Capital. This was a big publicity win for the young mining company, and other well-known investors and partners have since joined the adventure. These include Anne Lauvergeon, ex-CEO of Areva; Edouard Louis-Dreyfus, head of Louis Dreyfus Shipowners; Alain Mallart, head of Energipole; and Daniel Lebard, head of ISPG. Not to mention Arnaud Montebourg, the former French Minister of the Economy, who worked his network to support the young French entrepreneurs’ project. In addition, the well-known French business journal Les Echos recently wrote an effusive article on AMR about how this mining startup is taking the Paris elite by storm. It’s just the latest media success for a project that seems to be going quite well.

Bauxite, the mineral at the heart of the AMR

Beyond the historical ambitions of this project, the AMR represents a strategic business choice to invest in bauxite, a mineral necessary for the production of aluminum. Bauxite is sold to aluminium oxide refineries, who then sell it to aluminum smelters to make the final product. According to Girbal, “You need about 4 tons of bauxite to produce 1 ton of aluminum.” In the context of globalization, where emerging economies like China have profoundly shaken up the market, bauxite is one of the most important raw materials for several strategic economic activities, such as aviation, transportation and construction.

In 2010, worldwide production of bauxite reached 211 million tons. Australia is the largest producer, with a third of the market, followed by China, Brazil, India and Guinea, which holds an 8% share.

According to the French Geological and Mining Research Bureau (BRGM), Guinea alone holds 52% of the world’s bauxite reserves. Romain Girbal readily shares this number to show the potential of the Responsible Mining Alliance in this West African country undergoing rapid growth. “For the moment we’re only operating in the Boké prefecture, which is the real global center of bauxite and where the future of this strategic mineral lies because it’s where you find the world’s best bauxite,” Girbal notes. “Big mining companies are setting up here more and more.”

In Boke prefecture, in the northwest of the country, the Responsible Mining Alliance has obtained an exploration permit for 295 square kilometers (114 square miles). Prospecting has already begun and extraction should start soon. This deposit contains an estimated 650 million tons of very high quality bauxite.

“I think we came at the right time to Guinea, getting started with a very promising bauxite permit,” Girbal says. “That’s how we have been able to develop the Responsible Mining Alliance and get to where we are today.”

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South Africa’s Amplats warns H1 profit to fall at least 20%

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) expects its half-year profit to fall by at least 20 percent due to weaker metal prices, the South African miner said on Tuesday.

Platinum prices have been hurt by growth concerns in China and oversupply worries which have forced firms to abandon projects and sell mines.

Amplats, which produces around 40 percent of the world’s platinum group metals, said it would make a further announcement once it had determined a likely range for its headline earnings per share.

Headline EPS, which strips out certain one-off items, is the main profit measure in South Africa.

Shares in Amplats were little changed at 379.09 rand, largely in line with the blue-chip JSE Top-40 index.

Amplats, a unit of global mining group Anglo American, is focusing on newer and more mechanised mines and removing unprofitable ounces following a record five-month strike in 2014.

Amplats, along with rivals Impala Platinum and Lonmin, is due to start wage talks with unions at the end of June, when the current deal expires.

The National Union of Mineworkers will demand pay increases of 20 percent per year for the next two years while demands from the larger Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union are not yet known.


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by Jason Neely)

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South Africa’s Transnet transports monthly record of manganese

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Transnet Freight Rail moved a record number of manganese shipments in May due to new trains and improved market conditions, the company said on Wednesday.

Transnet Freight moved 1.053 million tons in May from a previous high of 976,671 tons in October 2015.

“The record-breaking performance is due to a significant improvement in efficiencies across the channels which were driven by the introduction of new locomotives among other things,” Transnet Freight Rail said in a statement.

State-owned Transnet plans to spend up to 390 billion rand ($26 billion) over ten years to expand and revamp railways, pipelines and ports in Africa’s most advanced economy, which is struggling with flagging growth.

More than 75 percent of the new locomotive railway fleet is used to move manganese, used as a component to keep steel from rusting. The company also moves coal, chrome and iron ore.

The company also said there was “an upturn in market conditions”. A company spokesman said the company able to move more volumes from mining companies.

($1 = 14.9650 rand)


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, editing by Louise Heavens)

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