This report on the mining of iron ore and chrome includes comprehensive information on the size and state of the industry, its major players, and their activities and corporate actions in South Africa, on the continent and globally. There are profiles of 21 companies including Kumba Iron Ore, which dominates the iron ore sector, and other players such as Assmang and Palabora Copper. Chrome producers profiled include integrated ferrochrome producers Glencore (Glencore-Merafe), Samancor and Afarak.
Mining of Iron Ore and Chrome
South Africa is the world’s sixth-largest iron ore producer and third largest iron ore exporter. It has 36% of the world’s chromite reserves, and is the is the world’s largest chrome producer and second-largest producer of ferrochrome. The iron ore mining sector employed 18,613 people in 2018, while the chrome ore mining sector had 18,935 employees in 2018. Rapidly rising input costs and policy and regulatory uncertainty are some of the challenges faced by the iron ore and chrome ore mining sectors. Expected growth in demand for chrome ore and ferrochrome, due to increasing stainless steel production, continues to present opportunities for the sector, as does growing demand for higher-grade iron ore from China.
Above-inflation electricity, water, and labour cost increases continue to affect the industry. Kumba, the major player in the iron ore sector, said its challenges include high stripping ratios, long hauling distances and high transport costs while Merafe Resources referred to global uncertainty and inflationary pressures locally. Electricity constraints and tariff increases continue to weigh heavily on the sector. The Minerals Council said substantial tariff increases will have a major effect on the mining industry’s cost structure, jeopardising the viability of marginal and loss-making mines and accelerating job losses. The introduction of carbon tax could cost the mining industry between R900m and R1.8bn per year during the first phase.