Rand Refinery CFO urges for greater localisation in jewellery industry

20th March 2023 By: Darren Parker - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Rand Refinery CFO urges for greater localisation in jewellery industry

Rand Refinery CFO Dean Subramanian
Photo by: Creamer Media

The gold and silver beneficiation industry needs stronger localisation laws to protect local economic development of small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) who participate in the sector, says precious metals refiner Rand Refinery CFO Dean Subramanian

He was speaking at a ceremony celebrating the graduation of a new round of students from Rand Refinery’s Silver and Gold Mentorship Programme and Intsika on March 17. 

“We need to work together and ensure localisation through legislation. There's lots of excuses in South Africa why we don't have the skills. But if you look at the success of South African companies around the world, we do have the skills and I think we just need to make sure that the legislation is in place, so there's no more excuses,” he said. 

This comes as the jewellery manufacturing industry has identified jewellery manufacturing as a critical skill – with 80% of commercial jewellery in South Africa being imported. 

Subramanian said that the new round of graduates would contribute to increasing employment and local beneficiation capacity in the downstream jewellery manufacturing and design industry.  

However, the initiative needed to be supported by the broader industry, he said. “The aim now is to ramp up industry support with an optimised curriculum.” 

The Silver and Gold Mentorship Programme is an enterprise development partnership between Rand Refinery, Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project (EJP), jewellery retailer NQ Jewellers, and industry body South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator, which was initiated in 2021. 

The programme saw 18 SMMEs graduating from the class of 2021 and another 14 in the class of 2022, which graduated on March 17.  

“We remain committed to supporting communities and enterprises in 2023. With the intake of 14 new graduates, we plan to further improve the programme within optimised mentorship curriculum to create an integrated young talent pipeline; the Jewellery Manufacturing Learnership for learners living with disabilities, executed in partnership with the Intsika Beneficiation Project, will be integrated into EJP as an extension of the jewellery learnership. The learners will get an opportunity to progress into the Silver Mentorship Programme for further development and capacitation,” Rand Refinery CEO Praveen Baijnath explained. 

The optimised curriculum will cover technical sales and marketing, unique design criteria and the provision of a gold loan, together with further capital investment. Baijnath emphasised that students with disabilities would also be given an opportunity to learn the skills to succeed in the sector. 

Participants in these programmes are provided the tools needed to succeed in the growing marketplace for well-made beneficiated goods. 

Last year, the top three SMMEs participated in the Mining Indaba, courtesy of Rand Refinery, and the winner represented Rand Refinery at the London Bullion Market Association conference in Portugal in October 2022.  “I congratulate the class of 2022 on their immense achievements and look forward to seeing them flourish and grow in the future. At the same time, let us welcome our class of 2023 and wish them well as they learn the skills and gain the knowledge to chart their path to success. We are extremely proud to champion upliftment through beneficiation and nurture local talent through the programme. There is no greater reward than seeing these SMEs showcase their designs to the world highlighting South Africa's potential right here on our doorstep,” Baijnath said. 

The company’s Gold Zone has developed into a hub for precious metals fabrication and community skills development – one which focuses on disabled and previously disadvantaged local talent. This adds to local growth potential, Baijnath said, which is being addressed in the Silver and Gold Loan And Mentorship Programme in 2023.  

“Ultimately, upon completing the Silver Mentorship Programme, they will get an opportunity to showcase their jewellery at the [retail store] Jewellery Village at Monte Casino. We aim to capacitate, grow and support the local jewellery manufacturing sector, which I believe is untapped and ripe for growth,” he said. 

Subramanian said that the newly introduced R700 000 gold loan into the programme added diversity and opportunity, with Rand Refinery already making 937 g, valued at R700 000, of gold available to SMMEs who meet the compliance criteria. To date, SMMEs have accounted for 70 kg of the 143 kg that was made available.  

The Intsika Skills Beneficiation Project was established in 2003 in response to the high rate of unemployment, skills shortage, and lack of establishment of sustainable small business hubs among the historically disadvantaged demographic of South Africa.  

The qualifications are aimed at helping create a young and empowered workforce able to produce world-class locally manufactured and designed jewellery products for the South African and international markets.  

“Further capital investment has been approved to upgrade the EJP technical and commercial campus and modernise the facility with cutting edge jewellery technology. This will accommodate students with disabilities and provide best-practice jewellery technical training,” Baijnath said.  

Additional enhancements to the programme in 2023 promised by Rand Refinery include clear and unique design criteria and technical processes, which will culminate in the design competition and receipt of silver.  

Another highlight was the introduction of a market access avenue with the launch of the Jewellery Village store at Monte Casino, Johannesburg.  

Subramanian said that the temptation for cheaper gold or silver is always prevalent. He said that SMMEs should refrain from faltering in their business by being lured into the world of using materials from illegal mining or refined scrapped with unknown provenance.  

He said the jewellery industry commands a high level of trust, governance and compliance but he warned of “bad actors who wittingly contaminate the ecosystem with materials of questionable provenance”.  

Only responsibly sourced gold and silver is sold at the store and provided in the programme. 

The refinery complies with the requirements of London Bullion Market Association responsible gold and silver guidelines for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals.