Insight - Demand for METS digital tech on the rise in Southern & West Africa

Mining operations in Sub-Saharan Africa faced multiple challenges from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenge have included:

  • restrictions on the movement of employees
  • frequent holds on capital expenditure
  • delays in the delivery of equipment and supplies to customers.

Despite these challenges, the mining sector has displayed resilience. In the last quarter of 2020, mining jurisdictions across Southern Africa applied a gradual easing of restrictions.

Most mining activities in Southern Africa and West Africa have returned to full production. Many mine sites are now looking for technology solutions to reduce costs. This demand accelerates opportunities for Australian METS companies.

This insight includes potential opportunities for Australian METS companies in South Africa and Botswana. To find out more, contact the Austrade Business Development Manager in Johannesburg

Demand for digital METS; education is key

A new report on mining in South Africa says there is increasing demand for digital technologies, as part of the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

Authored by professional services firm, PwC, ’10 insights into 4IR’ says challenges encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated demand for innovation and automation. This includes demand for technologies that will help companies to:

  • increase efficiency
  • manage risk
  • improve health and safety
  • reduce maintenance costs.

Many companies in South Africa are already adopting advanced technologies. According to mining industry reports, Rio Tinto is now using autonomous trucks. Coal miner, Exxaro, is simplifying its operations by creating visualised operations, and by increasing automation.

The Executive VP for Gold Fields, Alfred Baku, says COVID-19 prompted the company to accelerate its technology adoption to track supply chain activities.

Education is also an opportunity. According to executives, upskilling is as big a challenge in the South African mining sector as technology adoption.

Opportunities in South Africa

South Africa has some of the deepest gold mines in the world. The South Deep gold mine, 45 km southwest of Johannesburg, operates at 3km below the surface. The Mponeng mine, which is now owned by Harmony Gold, reaches 4km underground.

The country also has more than 80 per cent of global platinum reserves. Coal is a critically important source of primary energy in South Africa, with 90 per cent of the energy produced by the Electricity Supply Commission of South Africa (Eskom) generated using coal.

Other metals and minerals found in South Africa include manganese, chrome, iron ore and diamonds.

According to Austrade advisors in South Africa, the principal opportunities for South African METS companies are:

  • Automation, specialised technologies and mine-management software
  • Mine safety equipment and related services
  • Mining beneficiation, mineral-processing equipment, technology and services
  • Sustainable mining, mine rehabilitation services and community engagement.

Three new projects with potential for Australian METS

1.   Highlight: Prieska Project, Orion Minerals, South Africa

The Prieska Project in Northern Cape Province in South Africa, contains a globally significant volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) resource totalling 30.49Mt at 1.2% Cu and 3.7% Zn including Indicated Mineral Resources of 19.13Mt @ 1.18% Cu and 3.59% Zn.

The Resources remain open with both strike extensions and up-folded limb extensions identified by downhole geophysics. The Bankable Feasibility Study identified several mine plan optimisation and extensional opportunities, including:

  • Improvements to the plant and concentrate grade recovery above the conservative estimates applied in the BFS to match historical plant performance.
  • Extensions and additions to the mineral resources and mine life via:
    • conversion of delineated Inferred Mineral Resources into the mining plan
    • extensional exploration and 'out of resource' mineralisation
    • near-mine and satellite exploration potential
    • remnant pillar extraction.
  • Partially completed mine-to-market optimisation studies present the potential for refinements to be applied during the mine development and early production period.[i]

Orion Minerals plans to undertake mine de-watering and shaft refurbishment, and to establish underground infrastructure. The owner also wants to build a tailings storage facility that will initially serve as a de-watering reservoir.

2.   Highlight: Kalahari Copper Belt, Botswana & Namibia

The Kalahari Copper Belt is 800km long and stretches from Botswana to Namibia. It is considered one of the most underexplored copper areas in both jurisdictions.

Renewed exploration interest in the Kalahari Copper Belt has attracted mining companies seeking to access opportunities in the area.

Australian mining and exploration company Sandfire recently acquired licenses within the Kalahari Copper Belt from Kopore Metals Limited, also an Australian company.

This is primarily a partnership opportunity for Australian METS companies.  

3.   Highlight: Ada Songor Salt Project (Sage, Accra)

The Ada Songor Solar Salt project seeks to establish modern solar salt works. It is expected to increase production from 60,000 metric tons of salt to 1,000,000 metric tons per year and about 83,333 metric tons of salt monthly after retooling.

The project has received regulatory and government approval for a concession of 41,000 acres and an estimated investment, in phase one, of US$75 million.

The project owner wants to retool existing salt mining facilities to increase production. The owner intends to partner with mining consulting and engineering companies with experience in the region.

Contact us

For further information about Sub-Saharan Africa's mining opportunities, please contact our Africa-based team:        



[i] Source: GlobalData