The Mining of Chrome and Production of Ferrochrome describes current conditions in the local sector, recent investments and expansion projects in anticipation of increasing prices, and factors influencing the success of the industry. The report includes profiles on seven companies including the Finnish Afarak Group Plc which has three Chrome mines and one Ferrochrome plant in South Africa.
The Mining of Chrome and Production of Ferrochrome
South Africa’s chromite mines are operated by a number of smaller companies that focus on the production of chromite and a few integrated ferrochrome producers, notably the Glencore-Merafe Chrome Venture, Samancor Chrome, and Hernic Ferrochrome. The ferrochrome producers are involved in the upstream activities of mining and beneficiation of chromite, as well as the downstream activity of smelting chromite to produce ferrochrome. The pricing of and demand for ferrochrome are influenced by global economic conditions, exchange rates, the demand for stainless steel and chromite supply.
The World’s Largest Producer
The local chromite mining sector is the world’s largest producer and during 2015, 15Mt of chromite, representing 49% of the global total, was produced. The country also contains reserves of 200Mt, which is more than 41% of the world’s total. Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) data shows that during 2015, 14.6Mt of chromite worth R16.2bn was sold locally and on the international market. Although local ferrochrome companies are among the lowest-cost producers in the world, the slump in commodity prices since 2013 has meant that only four of the seven South African ferrochrome producers are currently operational. Sales of ferrochrome to China, the world’s largest importer of South African ferrochrome, are being negatively affected by increased exports of South African chromite, which is enabling the growth of the Chinese ferrochrome industry.