‘African mining firms can be turned around’

PLATINUM MINING ZIMBABWETHE crisis facing African mining companies, which have fallen behind their global peers due to declining productivity and return on invested capital, can be turned around, says a McKinsey report released on Monday.

While African companies supply 83 percent of the world’s platinum, 73 percent of the world’s cobalt and more than half of the world’s manganese, chromium and diamonds, they have underperformed in terms of value creation, according to the report titled Creating Global Mining Winners in Africa.

The good news is that African mining companies “have access to a range of levers to triple or quadruple their chances of becoming world-class performers”.

By taking specific actions in productivity, strategic merger and acquisitions, and allocation of capital, “African mining companies can boost their odds of moving up the power curve by a multiple of three or four”, the report said.

Companies should complement these moves by facilitating access to infrastructure, collaborating on regulatory frameworks, investing in local labour and community development and cultivating a local supplier base, the report proposed.

Doing so would improve companies’ odds of moving from the mid quantile to the top quantile on the power curve by up to 31 percent, said Lorenz Jüngling, the leader of McKinsey’s global energy and materials practice in Africa.

The report was released to coincide with the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, which brings together more than 7 000 mining professionals, investors, executives and government officials in African mining from more than 100 countries.

Michael Kloss, McKinsey director and co-author of the report, said even though there was a global downturn in commodity prices, investors should still spend money in this critical sector.

“A downturn is a good time to buy, and at least half of all African companies have the headroom to fund this growth based on their debt to equity ratio to do it.

“Our analysis shows there are also plenty of targets: 77 percent of mining companies account for just 30 percent of the industry’s market capitalisation in Africa,” said Mr Kloss.

Jonathan Moore, MD of Mining Indaba, said on Monday that the current market forced the African mining industry to take a hard look at how it did business and the aspects that were most critical to its future success.

“Looking ahead, governments and companies are focused on developing strategies to invest in African mining beyond the current mining cycle,” he said.

“In a capital restrained market, it is notable that we have one of the most influential representations from the investment community that we have seen to date.

“It is imperative to explore the possibilities of big, bold strategic moves that offer the best odds of moving companies from good to great,” the report explained.

“The industry will have to go beyond the traditional means of collaboration. As such, mining companies should do everything to create a better business environment — they should support regulators to create the right conditions, collaborate with labour to create a mutually beneficial environment for capability building and labour, work with governments to create a more favourable business climate and with communities to build an environment that creates shared value and productivity enhancements.

“The time for action is now, and by taking action now, we believe that the odds for the future of African mining companies will be on track as one of the most attractive regions for mining globally.” — Fin24.

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