Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of multinational mining company Anglo American (RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
- Despite the challenges facing the mining sector, Cutifani says he is optimistic about the future.
- The latest greenshoots can serve as a growth catalyst for the next decade.
- But South Africa continues to score own goals, says Cutifani.
From the nine wasted years and missed opportunities, Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani says he is confident that the local mining industry can still be further developed to turn the country a competitive investiment destination and drive growth.
Cutifani spoke at the openining of the Joburg Indaba on Wednesday. The annual gathering of mining leaders and investors focusing on investment issues and developments in the sector was held online for the first time this year due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
In his address, Cutifani spoke about the uncertainties that have gripped the industry. These include challenges around mining policy and the own goals that the country has scored over the years – which have not gone down well for the economy and the mining sector.
“If we look past the last 10 years, we have had more missed opportunities than successes,” said Cutifani, who is leading the diversified mining conglomerate with operations in South Africa.
The years under former president Jacob Zuma’s administration are often referred to as the “nine wasted years” – in reference to the economic decline, policy uncertainty and rising corruption scandals that characterised his chaotic time in office.
“For instance, we spent the last 10 years desperately trying to navigate our way out of an uncertain and unworkable policy environment for mining.”
Cutifani, who was appointed Anglo American CEO in April 2013, is a respected veteran in local circles, having led AngloGold Ashanti from 2007, before joining the mining giant. In his speech to delegates at the conference, he spoke about the stagnation of the industry and the country’s current economic trajectory. He noted that, although there had been some greenshoots of late – including the recent private-public partnerships in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic – the country was “at a crossroads”.
“We have also seen in the past other headlines that tell a different story, about the own goals that South Africa continues to score against itself,” he said.
He bemoaned the repeated calls for reform by business and the mining industry, saying “sometimes it feels like we are repeating the same script, again and again, anxiously waiting for the change we desperately need.”
The executive pointed out that large scale investment in the South African mining sector had stagnated, and the country’s mining attractiveness had remained in the bottom half of mining jurisdiction ranks globally, but hastened to say not all is lost.
Despite the challenges facing the country and the industry, Cutifani said: “When it comes to South Africa and the mining industry more particularly, I am ever the optimist.”
“We had some encouraging greenshoots, these can serve as a catalyst for the next decade.”
Anglo American is one of the long-standing investors in the country, through its investments in platinum, diamonds mining, coal, iron ore and platinum group metals (PGMs).
The company this year announced that it was looking to demerge its coal operations in South Africa, a process that is expected to be concluded in the next two to three years, with a primary listing in the JSE for the de-merged business.
“I believe the next decade is going to be crucial for the mining industry and South Africa. We have a unique opportunity to build a modern, inclusive and equitable mining industry…we cannot allow ourselves to go through another decade of missed opportunities.”
Cutifani stated that he was, however, encouraged by some of the developments that have taken place in the country, including the announcement in February by National Treasury to ease cross-border financial transactions for multinational companies.
He said the decision was a significant step towards improving the attractiveness of the country as an investment destination and gives companies increased flexibility to manage their cash resource.
He also welcomed the decision Minerals Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to withdraw his appeal of a court order on a section in the Mining Charter which relates to BEE ownership transactions. The order stated that BEE transactions should continue to be recognised for regulatory certainty purposes for the duration of a mining right, even where the BEE partner has sold or transferred part or all of its equity.
The minister’s appeal had caused discomfort among companies.