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De Beers began construction on Tuesday of a new underground mine under its open-pit Venetia mine in the Limpopo province — the single biggest investment in the sector in decades.
President Zuma said the investment “signals that indeed our mining sector is poised for growth, and that it has a bright future” at the construction launch in Musina.
“The investment will no doubt boost diamond production, from which the country has lost its eminence in recent years,” added the president.
The project is also significant because it demonstrates confidence in South Africa as an investment destination of choice by both foreign and South African companies, said Zuma.
The new mine will support over 8,000 jobs directly and will indirectly benefit thousands of people in the community and the province.
Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani who was present at the launch said: “Let the world see the real South Africa and let us focus on the great future we are building together”.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value, was taken over by Anglo American in a deal completed last year.
Anglo American have invested over 200 billion rand in South Africa over the last 14 years.
Mining has been the foundation of economic development in the African nation for well over a century.
“Our mineral-rich country continues to host significant known reserves of mineral commodities, with almost 60 minerals being actively mined,” Zuma said.
Estimates suggest that South Africa will be able to exploit its mineral resources for over a century to come.
“It is for this reason that as government we are investing time and effort in strengthening the mining sector so that it can contribute to inclusive growth and jobs as envisaged in the National Development Plan,” the president said.
“Our mining industry is definitely poised for growth, especially if we continue working together to promote the industry in various ways. ”
The country’s mining sector has been hit by persistent labour unrest that has damaged the economy.
Zuma said the government was encouraged by the positive response of business and labour to the government’s intervention to bring about labour peace and stability.
However, isolated incidents have still occurred such as the killing of a National Union of Mineworkers branch leader in Rustenburg near Johannesburg last week.
“Such incidents have no place in a democratic society like ours, ” Zuma said.
“Fortunately, investors in the mining industry are aware that they should, in terms of the law, redress past imbalances in the industry”, said Zuma.
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said earlier this month at an investor conference in London that the mining industry was a more stable environment now than a year ago and that “for some time to come mining will remain at the heart of the South African economy.”