Business Maverick


SA mining employment rises in 2023 while exports slide on Eskom and Transnet crisis

SA mining employment rises in 2023 while exports slide on Eskom and Transnet crisis
Kusile coal-fired power plant in Mpumalanga. South Africa's mining sector added 7,500 jobs in 2023, bringing total employment to 477,000. (Photo: Julia Evans)

South Africa’s mining sector added to its payrolls last year despite the plethora of challenges it faces. 

South Africa’s mining sector added 7,500 jobs last year, with total employment reaching 477,000, according to the Minerals Council’s annual Facts and Figures booklet, released on Monday at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

The Minerals Council also said that total wages in the sector last year rose 7% to R186.5-billion while the industry’s contribution to the fiscus rose 9% to R135.3-billion.

That’s the good news, but the outlook for 2024 is bleak.

“Towards the end of 2023 and into 2024, several companies announced restructuring processes to reposition themselves with the reduced electricity availability, severe rail constraints, harbour delays, and a downturn in the prices of coal and platinum group metals (PGMs),” the Minerals Council said.

Last year also saw the first fall since 2015 in South African mineral sales during a calendar year.

“South Africa’s mineral sales in nominal terms fell by more than 13% in the first 10 months of 2023. The expectation is that mineral sales will post the first calendar year decline since 2015 and also the largest annual fall since the global financial crisis in 2009,” the Minerals Council said. “Mineral exports fell by more than 11% to R781.6-billion.”

Transnet’s meltdown and Eskom’s woes are the main reasons behind this sorry state of affairs.

“The two biggest contributors to mineral sales, PGMs and coal, demonstrate the negative impacts Eskom and Transnet have had on the mining sales and output performance. Contributing to the difficulties in these two sectors were steep falls in PGM and coal prices,” the Minerals Council said.

“PGM sales generated an estimated R199-billion in 2023, a 33.3% decline from the previous year. Production fell by 11% to 239.9 tonnes … In the coal sector, producers increasingly relied on road transport to move coal to harbours, including Maputo, which carries a cost premium compared to rail. Total estimated coal sales of R192.2-billion were 22% lower year-on-year.”

Trucks were used to move an estimated 26 million tonnes of coal — a record for one year.

As a result, mining’s contribution to South African gross domestic product (GDP) fell to 6.2% in 2023 from 7.3% in 2022. DM


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