Manganese Operation to Bring SA Jobs


"South Africa is well positioned to develop its manganese market."

Minister of Mining Resources Susan Shabangu said South Africa was well positioned and had vast potential to develop and grow its manganese market.

She was speaking at the official opening of the Russian-backed, black-controlled United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK) manganese operation in Sishen, Kuruman.

It emerged at the launch that the new company's Russian partners were keen to invest further in the country, helping to create more jobs for the area.

Shabangu told guests that the UMK operation underlined the country's potential to develop its manganese exports.

She pointed out that although the country had 80% of the world's identified high-grade manganese, it had only cornered 15% of the world market for what was an essential ingredient of steel.

UMK is already exporting to Asia, Europe, India and the Middle East.

It is 51% black-owned with 49% of shares being held by Renova of Russia.

UMK adopted a sell-as-you-develop strategy taking advantage of shallow reserves, which resulted in the sale of 1.5 million tons of ore last year to contribute to capital expenditure.

UMK chairperson Lazarus Mbethe said the official opening of UMK was the culmination of a dream to create a mining company which would bring jobs and inject life into the local economy.

Mbethe said the mine was born out of "a deep desire to benefit the community, and unite cultures (South African and Russian)."

Mbethe recalled that the UMK operation began with the acquisition of prospecting rights to 15000 hectares of land covering eight farms in 2005.

Although the mining operations started in 2009 yesterday's official launch was a milestone for the company, he said.

It also emerged that UMK had created 800 permanent and contract jobs, and expected to sell 1.8 million tons of manganese.

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