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Mining wants extra regulation, based on South Africans – survey

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South Africa has giant reserves of coal, gold, manganese and platinum.

It additionally has “vital” minerals and metals. Although there is no such thing as a consensus on which minerals are vital, they’re also known as these pure assets which can be important for the vitality transition. The transition refers back to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable vitality sources to cut back greenhouse gases. The applied sciences wanted to make this shift require sure mineral and metallic inputs.

South Africa’s vital minerals and metals record consists of cobalt, nickel, copper, lithium and uncommon earth minerals. It has one of many largest reserves of graphite on the continent. In 2020, the World Financial institution predicted that demand for cobalt, lithium and graphite would have grown by about 500% between 2018 and 2050.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt. Zimbabwe is likely one of the prime lithium producers worldwide.

In South Africa, the business’s financial contribution has declined, however it continues to play an vital function within the financial system and the lives of abnormal residents. It employs over 400,000 individuals and attracts overseas direct funding into the nation. It contributed over 6% to GDP, R90 billion (US$5 billion) in firm taxes, and R14 billion (US782 million) in royalties in 2023.

South Africa has, because the daybreak of democracy in 1994, been battling with how finest to make sure that residents profit evenly from the extraction of pure assets. Numerous political events, together with the African Nationwide Congress and the Financial Freedom Fighters, have introduced plans by way of their election manifestos on obtain this.

However little has been heard from residents in regards to the governance of South Africa’s extractive industries. This text goals to handle the hole. It attracts from a latest survey by the Afrobarometer Analysis Community and my analysis on socio-economic growth, political establishments, useful resource governance and vitality politics in Africa.

Afrobarometer discovered that the majority South Africans favoured extra authorities regulation of mining. My analysis additionally emphasises the function of residents in holding the federal government accountable for making certain that non-renewable assets are used for inclusive growth.

These findings are vital as a result of minerals are anticipated to play a vital function within the vitality transition over the subsequent couple of many years. This function will imply that South Africa’s mining business, in addition to the remainder of the continent’s, will play a big function within the geopolitics of the vitality transition.




Learn extra:
The world is speeding to Africa to mine vital minerals like lithium – how the continent ought to cope with the demand


Residents help extra authorities regulation

For the primary time, in its most up-to-date South African survey (Spherical 9/2021), Afrobarometer sought the views of residents on pure useful resource extraction, resembling mining, oil drilling, or wooden harvesting. Determine 1 stories responses to 4 statements. Those that stated they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn’t know had been labeled as detached.

Most South Africans (61%) agreed that pure useful resource extraction must be regulated extra tightly to cut back environmental impacts. Views on different questions had been extra combined. As an example, 41% agreed that abnormal South Africans had a voice in choices about pure useful resource extraction close to their communities. Over half (58%) disagreed or had been detached.

On whether or not native communities acquired a fair proportion of the income from useful resource extraction, 69% of residents disagreed or had been detached. Solely 31% thought they acquired a fair proportion.

Lastly, solely 39% of residents agreed that the advantages of useful resource extraction, like jobs and income, outweighed the prices, resembling air pollution. In the meantime, 60% both disagreed or had been detached.

It’s clear that the majority residents most well-liked extra authorities regulation, however their views had been extra combined concerning different equally vital facets of useful resource extraction.

These views might should do with the mining business’s chequered historical past. Although it has contributed to growth in a number of African international locations, it was underpinned by the super-exploitation of low cost black labour.

Additionally, the mining of vital minerals like cobalt has been linked to human rights abuses, together with little one labour and human trafficking. It has been related to well being and environmental impacts too, like water air pollution and crop contamination.

Does social gathering affiliation matter?

The governance of the mining business has been contested in South Africa’s political debates for a few years. It’s crucial to contemplate how views on regulation differed amongst supporters of main political events.

Determine 2 analyses the connection between help for extra authorities regulation and respondents’ social gathering affiliation. Social gathering affiliation was decided primarily based on responses to the query:

If nationwide elections had been held tomorrow, which social gathering would you vote for?

The uMkhonto we Sizwe social gathering, which positioned third within the 2024 nationwide elections, didn’t exist when the 2021 survey was carried out. It’s excluded from the evaluation.

The highest 4 events within the 2024 nationwide elections recognise the financial significance of the mining business and the necessity to remodel it to create jobs. Nevertheless, their strategies of attaining these objectives differ, reflecting every social gathering’s financial and ideological stances.

The Financial Freedom Fighters’ 2024 manifesto (like uMkhonto we Sizwe’s) requires state possession of mineral assets by way of a state-owned firm.

The most important social gathering, the African Nationwide Congress, seeks to strike a steadiness between state intervention and personal sector participation to remodel the financial system and create jobs.

The Democratic Alliance, a number one opposition social gathering and member of the not too long ago shaped unity authorities, desires to take away state management and simplify laws to draw personal funding.

Practically two-thirds of these polled wished pure useful resource extraction to be regulated extra tightly. Nevertheless, 75% of respondents who stated they had been more likely to vote for Financial Freedom Fighters referred to as for higher regulation. This was 10 share factors greater than African Nationwide Congress or the Democratic Alliance supporters.

Residents might not know sufficient about extractive industries

The Afrobarometer survey means that residents need the state to play a central and strategic function, whether or not by way of nationalisation, higher oversight or different mechanisms.

However the share of residents who disagreed or had been detached (neither disagreed nor agreed, or didn’t know) about having a voice or the advantages of useful resource extraction is worrying. The response might indicate that residents aren’t as nicely knowledgeable in regards to the mineral assets business as they need to be. This has implications for his or her function in holding authorities to account for its regulation and the sector’s impression on the setting. Accountability additionally extends to authorities’s use of revenues it will get from pure assets extraction.

Residents’ potential to carry authorities to account will develop into much more vital because the sector is projected to play a key function in the course of the vitality transition.



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