Although the mining and minerals sector accounts for just under 2 percent of provincial GDP, KZN’S benefication plants are important for South Africa’s minerals sector. Most of the minerals mined in the northern part of the country are handled through Richards Bay. The province also contains significant deposits of unmined coal and Transnet’s extensive pipeline network that services the fuel and gas industries from refineries in Durban.
The Richards Bay and La Lucia area contains the fourth-largest reserve of titanium in the world. Ilemenite, ructile and zircon are mined in northern KwaZulu-Natal for their titanium and zirconium components, which are in high demand worldwide. Supplying a quarter of global demand for these products, Richards Bay Minerals mines 17 kilometres along a two kilometre strip of coastline north of Richards Bay. Another producer, KZN Sands (previously Ticor), currently mines minerals at its Hillendale mine and smelts llemnite to produce titanium dioxide slag at Empangeni. In 2011, in response to improved conditions in the titanium market, Exxaro Resources, owner of KZN Sands, announced the construction of the Fairbreeze heavy mineral sands mine near Richards Bay, KZN produces sufficient mineral products, such as sand, limestone and shale, to supply the local brick producers and construction industry in the province. However, the building mineral deposits are not large enough to sustain major export markets.
Coal mining in the province is mainly of anthracite, found in the northern interior district of Newcastle–Vryheid and in Nongoma. Much of the anthracite is transported to Richards Bay coal terminal for export. A significant player is the Miranda Minerals Group, which is expected to start mining anthracite at its 3.7 million tonne Sesikhona Collieries in 2011. The Group is also conducting feasibility studies on developing the Uithoek, Burnside and Boschhoek anthracite mines. As significant amounts of high-grade coal remains un-mined in KZN, development opportunities exist to exploit dormant collieries and explore new mines. Economically viable pockets of coal exist within KZN’s three traditional coalfields of Utrecht, Vryheid and Klip River, with the latter displaying the highest potential.
Oil & Gas
KZN has an extensive network of pipelines for the delivery of liquid fuels and gas. Transnet’s R23.4-billion new multi-product pipeline, connecting the Highveld to the refineries in Durban, is due for completion in 2013. In 2009, the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PetroSA) granted oil and gas exploration rights to Singapore-based Silver Wave Energy to explore the 5 000km Tugela area off the KZN coast.
Did you know?
• RBM (the trading name for Richards Bay Mining (Pty) Ltd and Richards Bay Titanium (Pty) Ltd) represents 3.5 percent of the gross geographic product (GGP) of KZN and 33 percent of the GGP of Lower Umfolozi in north-east KZN.
• Richards Bay Coal Terminal is the world’s largest coal-exporting terminal.
• RBM’s social investment programmes have benefitted the surrounding community by providing employment for 2 100 permanent staff and 2 000 contractors.