Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin exporters can benefit through the sale of mining and construction equipment, power systems and other requirements for mining operations and infrastructure needs.
South Africa is a world leader in mining, with the sector accounting for roughly one-third of the market capitalization of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and attracting significant foreign investment in the country. The sector contributes 8.6 percent of GDP, which increases to 18 percent when taking into account the indirect effect of mining on the economy. South Africa's mineral resource base is valued at an estimated US$2.5 trillion (R30 trillion) by Citibank. South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum, chromium and vanadium, and is a leading producer of gold, gem diamonds, ferrochromium, platinum and manganese, as well as synthetic liquid fuels and petrochemicals derived from coal. It also exports coal, cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, nickel, silver uranium, zinc and zirconium. The minerals industry operates on a free-enterprise, market-driven basis that allows for better foreign entry into the market. Mining and its related industries are critical to South Africa's socioeconomic development. According to the Chamber of Mines, the mining sector employs 1 million people, accounts for one-fifth of investment in the country, and accounts for 94 percent of electricity generation via coal power plants and 15 percent of electricity demand.
Mining production surged by 15.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017, a sharp departure from the prolonged downturn of the previous years. Technological innovation is becoming ever more vital to the industry. This is true especially as the most accessible mineral deposits are exhausted and as mining companies increasingly embrace advanced technology as part of their digital transformation. New technologies could also present alternative sources of capital, as well as standardized processes and systems to improve project delivery and safety. In countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mining sector is booming, with copper, cobalt and other semi-precious metals reaching highs not seen since 2014. In this environment, those countries’ entire economies are getting a boost, with indications of a full recovery apparent across several sectors.
These developments call for partnership and cooperation between industry role players: government, business, labor, communities and training institutions. Creating an environment with adequate infrastructure, less policy and regulatory uncertainty, and a skilled, flexible workforce should go a long way toward attracting investment and benefiting all stakeholders. Most mining equipment is imported, as almost all heavy equipment is imported into Africa. Most power systems are imported as well, creating exporting opportunities for Wisconsin companies.