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It is not enough to mine the metals and minerals needed by a modern world; beneficiation of these products is also necessary to grow the economy.

Traditionally, the South African economy has been based on mining. While its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has slid in recent years, it is still responsible for a big slice of the pie.

By 2013, the sector is estimated to have contributed R280-billion, or 9.2%, directly to the GDP, and R28-billion to tax revenue. It employs over half-a-million people and, currently, mineral exports represent 30% of South Africa's merchandise export basket.

Over the first 20 years of democracy, the Industrial Development Corporation has played a significant role in mining capacity development. Like the country, it is not sitting back but is turning its attention to beneficiation.

Its Mining and Mineral Beneficiation Strategic Business Unit funds most types of mining activities, including onsite and offsite beneficiation. Its strategy in financing projects in the sector has encompassed large resource-based beneficiation transactions, and primary mining and mining services locally and in the rest of Africa.

IDC funding has been used to:

  • Expand phosphate rock mining from 2.9 million to 4 million tons a year at Foskor;
  • Expand chrome mining at Hernic Ferrochrome;
  • Develop manganese mining at Majestic Silver Trading;
  • Expand manganese ore mining to produce 3 million tons a year at Kalagadi Manganese; and,
  • Complete a feasibility study at Lesego Platinum for a large-scale underground platinum mine and concentrator.

The corporation has also supported numerous mineral beneficiation projects in the past two decades. These include:

  • Establishing a large carbon steel mill at Saldanha Steel;
  • Establishing a ferrochrome smelter at Hernic Ferrochrome;
  • Expanding stainless steel production capacity at Columbus Stainless Steel;
  • Establishing a cold-rolled and galvanised steel products plant at Duferco Steel Processing;
  • Expanding production capacity of semi-fabricated aluminium rolled products at Hulett Aluminium; and,
  • Establishing a ferrochrome smelter at SA Chrome & Alloys.

Other companies supported by the IDC to enhance mineral beneficiation include International Ferro Metals, Merafe, Kalagadi Manganese, Exxaro, Hulamin, and Phalabora Mining.

In line with the strategies of a democratic government, the IDC has had an impact on transformation in the sector. It promotes black economic empowerment ownership and participation; attracting foreign partners; developing industrial parks; facilitating investment in under-developed regions; and stimulating local development and employment.