The Glencore-Merafe Chrome Venture, formerly SA Chrome, has come a long way since its early days as South Witwatersrand Exploration Company in 1999. A funding boost in 2001 spurred the company on, to become a world-leading ferrochrome producer by 2004.
In 2001, just seven years after South Africans voted in the country's first democratic election, Durban welcomed world leaders to the first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, from 31 August to 7 September. The conference, a scoop for the city's world-class International Convention Centre, focussed on finding ways to eliminate of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
In the same year, as the country prospered under the new political dispensation, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) approved R150-million in equity and a R100-million debt facility for the establishment of a ferrochrome smelting plant in Boshoek, near Rustenburg in North West Province. The plant, South Africa Chrome and Alloys (SA Chrome), was expected to produce 235 000 tonnes of ferrochrome a year; the project's first furnace was commissioned in June 2002.
Funding was approved after the IDC purchased an equity stake in South Witwatersrand Exploration Company in 1999 for the acquisition of chromite resources, subsequently setting up a loan facility for beneficiation trials and feasibility study funding. South Witwatersrand Exploration Company was renamed SA Chrome by the end of that year.
The IDC then helped set up a joint venture between SA Chrome and Alloys and the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), a move that would open up opportunities for further expansions as RBN held large chrome deposits near the Boshoek projects. The IDC and the Royal Bafokeng Resources Holding Company (Pty) Ltd were principal shareholders in SA Chrome, with 25.2% and 22.2% in shares respectively. At the time the company was a JSE-listed ferrochrome producer.
The joint venture heralded further partnerships; in early 2004, SA Chrome and Xstrata plc, a London- and Zurich-listed international resources company, pooled resources in a joint venture that would create the largest ferrochrome producer in the world. Operating eight chrome mines and 20 smelters, with a combined capacity to produce more than 1.9 million tonnes of ferrochrome annually, the company was able to meet about 20% of global demand for ferrochrome.
In 2004 SA Chrome and Alloy was renamed Merafe Resources Ltd, with RBN and the IDC owning around 29% and 22% of shares respectively in the JSE-listed company. Following the 2013 merger between Xstrata plc and Glencore, the venture was renamed the Glencore-Merafe Chrome Venture.