By Ntombi Mhlongo
The discovery of four major minerals in the Manzini and Hhohho regions has presented an opportunity for the private sector to invest in mining. The discovery of the four major minerals, gold, iron ore, diamond, and Copper-Nickel-Platinum group elements comes after the government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy conducted a Multi-Disciplinary Geoscience Mapping in the Manzini and Hhohho regions, which its finding have since been made public. This has opened opportunities for the private sector to unlock the mining sector which the government has prioritised as being one that can boost economic activity in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Responding to a question on what will happen now that the minerals have been identified, acting Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulani Mabuza laid it bare that it is not the government that is expected to do the mining, but the private sector.
“Now that we have presented the findings of the study, we are announcing to the private sector that we have found certain minerals in the country and businesspeople should come forward and apply for prospecting licences,” said Mabuza.
He said once the businesspeople have been granted the prospecting licences, they will then do their own explorations to ascertain mineability.
“In the report, we only indicated that we have discovered that there is gold and it is in abundance which means that there is potential for a major investment. The businesspeople will dig deep, satisfy themselves after which they will then apply for the official mining licence,” the minister said.
The minister’s words were echoed by Chief Geologist Dr Noah Nhleko who said companies should come forward and purchase the document carrying the data which was compiled as part of the survey to get details of the findings.
“We even have a digital document which carries all the information. We invite companies and businesspeople to come to us,” he said.
In both the Eswatini Strategic Roadmap and the Post COVID-19 Kingdom of Eswatini Economic Recovery Plan whose theme is ‘Carving the path to a private sector-led economy, the mining sector is listed as one of six that the government plans to unlock.
In the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan, the government highlighted that while striving to create wealth and promote sustainable development for all stakeholders, this sector faces a myriad of challenges that hinder it from living up to its full potential.
The National Development Plan (NDP 2019-2022) states that opportunities for economic growth that could be realised through tapping into this sector exist.
For years, there has been a concern that in mining, the limited number of minerals (coal, quarry and iron ore) being extracted, combined with the lack of processing industries affects the value-add prospects in the sector.
This reality has resulted in the sector’s low revenue contribution to the economy – the mining and energy sector contributes less than one per cent to the local GDP.