Launch of the Semi-precious Gemstones Training and Beneficiation Project

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Programme Director
Honourable Mayor and Councilors
CEO of Mintek, Mr. A, Mngomezulu
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Northern Cape Provincial Government to congratulate you on the launch of the Upington Semi-precious Gemstones Training & Beneficiation Project, which is a partnership between Government and the private sector. This is an exciting launch indeed for the Northern Cape Province and for Upington in particular.

Mining in the Northern Cape has a history of prime boom and extraction of resources with no local value add and departing while leaving local communities worse off than before. For this reason then, projects such as these that serve to improve the lives of citizens through skills development, job creation and local economic development, are welcomed and encouraged.

It has been mentioned in many economic strategic documents and commentary that the nature of the South African economy is characterized with and abundance of economic activity in the primary sector where we mainly find natural resources, which include mining and agriculture. The picture however changes somewhat when we move to the secondary sector, where manufacturing takes place, and we see minimal performance, and then when we move to the tertiary sector, where we find retail, that’s where we realize another spike in economic activity.  This in essence implies that, though we have an abundance of natural resources, most of their processing or value addition is not happening within our shores.  The spike then in our tertiary sector where consumer action prevails, implies that we end up purchasing products from some of our own processed and value added natural resources making their way back to us from outside the country.
Due to the fact that products are being imported it would mean that we are purchasing products that were processed from our natural resources at an exorbitant price. These are mainly the reasons why we experience a large scale performance within the tertiary sector, and very little performance within the secondary sector.

Programme Director, according to the Beneficiation Strategy for the Mineral Industry of South Africa, our country has over the years, steadily improved its ratio of beneficiation to primary products exported since the 1970s. Of concern is the fact that these ratios are still well below the potential suggested by the quality and quantity of its mineral resource endowment. 
Given this scenario, the Government’s industrialization policy calls for a paradigm shift in mineral development and more so in the manufacturing sector.  In order to give effect then to this decision, various initiatives have been undertaken by Government to act as a catalyst and steadily work towards the realization of the intended paradigm shift.
Ladies and Gentlemen, some of these initiatives include the establishment of agencies such as MINTEK which is an institution entrusted with the mandate; to amongst others, provide strategic, technical guidance and assistance with development of incubators for manufacturing.  Such manufacturing will also be making use of some of our own natural resources.  As it is, the Northern Cape has an abundance of semi-precious or ornamental stones.  We also have an abundance of a peculiar stone called the Tiger’s Eye which prevails around the Prieska, Niekerkshoop and Griekwastad belt.  The establishment of such incubator initiatives is very crucial for the Northern Cape.

Programme Director; in our Provincial Growth and Development Strategy (PGDS), Manufacturing and Mineral Beneficiation have been identified as very key catalytic sectors that will assist in the realization of our targets for provincial economic growth and creation of employment.  Our Economic Cluster, which is led by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDaT), has over the years worked closely with MINTEK on various initiatives.  We thus find it very encouraging that a similar initiative to this has been established at Prieska, and the Department is also assisting the beneficiaries with entrepreneurial coaching and mentoring and also assistance with access to markets.
To this end, the beneficiaries of this project were assisted to exhibit their products at the BRICS EXPO that was held in Kimberley during October last year.  What I find even more pleasing is that most of the beneficiaries at these incubation centres are youth.  Allow me thus to express our appreciation to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) for their involvement in these initiatives.  We are aware that we do still experiences challenges with youth unemployment and this has a direct impact on some of the social ills that we are experiencing. We therefore applaud these initiatives because they are positive contributors to youth development.

An observation however that we have made through our interaction with SMMEs and Co-operatives in the Arts and Crafts manufacturing industry, is that sometimes our business entities do not derive lucrative revenue or sales from their products.  The observation is that, either the quality of their products is of a low standard when compared to their competitors, or either people do not have disposable income to purchase ornamental products.
What is interesting though, especially in the jewellery industry, is that businesses are still thriving.  This therefore implies that there is a thriving market for jewellery. Adequate research should be undertaken, supplemented by good quality training to ensure that products of our beneficiaries can carve themselves a niche in the market.  Beneficiaries should also be awarded more exposures at exhibition pavilions so as to empower them with research on the competition out there, which will prompt them to “up their game” and compete at the same level

In conclusion, as the Northern Cape Provincial Government, we support this initiative and we also request that other organizations, departments, businesses, also work together with MINTEK to ensure that initiatives of this nature become a huge success. Be assured of our best wishes as you mark this important milestone aimed at serving the best interests of the citizens of this beautiful, vast and mineral-rich Province.

I thank you.

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