December 8, 2020, marked the beginning of transition towards global economic recovery when Margaret Keenan, a British citizen, became the first recipient of an authorised Covid-19 vaccine. We don’t know how long the transition from a Covid-scarred to a Covid-free world will take. But the move towards that direction will no doubt bring confidence in the global economy.
Mining will certainly benefit from the confidence as economic activity is likely to pick up in the first half of 2021. Many countries will rely on infrastructure spending to anchor economic revival. That will ensure demand for [several] mineral-based products.
Given the severe Covid-induced economic decline – and the concomitant job losses – we expect that regulators will prioritise speeding up regulatory approvals for mining projects to boost prospects for increased employment. Authorisations and licences [must] be issued within the regulated time frames if government has any hope of reversing the tragic unemployment numbers.
Following thorough consideration, we have decided to bring back into operation Zululand Anthracite Colliery in the first quarter of 2021. We anticipate that there will be good demand for quality anthracite as manufacturers resume ramp up of their operations. The mine is critical for the economy of the area where it is situated as it provides not only employment, but also purified water to households. [Alongside] our partners and communities, we look forward to contributing to Zululand’s economic recovery.
In the first half of the year, we expect that we will have hit ore in our East Manganese operation, where we started mining the box cut in September 2020. We made history by being the only new mine to launch in the middle of a pandemic. We are likely to get involved in a sizeable manganese project in 2021. We think the market fundamentals of manganese will be strong in light of the expected infrastructure-driven global economic recovery.
Coal might have seen its worst days in the beginning of 2020 before Covid-19 became a pandemic. Since then, there has been an encouraging steady improvement in the price. If [this] trend continues, we will be encouraged to bring pre-approved projects into operation. We will watch the market closely to decide on the timing of the execution of project pipeline and to consider restarting operations at Kangra, which we put under care and maintenance during lockdown.
We remain on track to implement our R7-billion investment plans due to be completed by 2022. The biggest immediate investment is Bekezela Colliery which is on the last leg of evaluation for a water use licence.