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Africa’s top 500 companies: Mining bounces back from the bottom

By Honoré Banda
Posted on Tuesday, 27 February 2018 12:25

Many mining companies have been recovering from the price crash of 2015, and the sector reported a 7.4% rise in revenue in the 2016 financial reporting year in our Top 500 companies ranking.

Total sector revenue from mining houses in the Top 500 went from $40.3bn in 2015 to $43.3bn in 2016.

Prices for several mining commodities rose in 2017, and financiers, including Goldman Sachs, predict that they will continue to increase in 2018.

Platinum prices spiked to more than $1,100/oz in 2016, helping the bottom line of Anglo American Platinum Corporation. The price slipped below $1,000 in 2017, and the company has been cutting costs and selling off some of its properties.

Analysts are bearish about the long-term trend in platinum prices due to the rise of electric cars, as platinum is used in internal combustion engines. Amplats sold off its Rustenburg property in November 2016, agreed to unload the Amandelbult deposit to Northam Platinum and got rid of its stake in the Pandora joint venture in December 2017.

Investor worries

Gold prices have been down from their heights of 2013, and did not reach $1,400 in either 2016 or 2017. South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti is now diversifying away from its home base so that it can invest in international projects. There were reports in 2017 that AngloGold might spin off its South African gold mining assets. That took place against the backdrop of investor worries about the political and economic direction that the South African government has been taking.

In the meantime, the gold mining company reported production of 997,000oz in the third quarter of 2017, up 11% on the same period in 2016. AngloGold sold its South Africa-based Moab Khotsong mine to Harmony Gold Mining and the Kopanang mine to Chinese investors.

AngloGold is keen to restart operations at the Obuasi mine in Ghana, which was shut down due to security concerns. Chief executive Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan told media in November 2017: “You have to be patient in terms of negotiations with government.”

Sibanye Gold was the biggest mining climber in this year’s ranking. The company began operations in 2013, when Gold Fields spun off most of its South Africa assets, and is showing an increasing appetite for geographical and mineral diversification. Sibanye purchased US-based pplatinum-group metals miner Stillwater for $2.2bn in May 2017 and then agreed to purchase troubled miner Lonmin for $382m in December 2017, which will help to make Sibanye Gold one of the world’s top producers of platinum.

Goldman’s predictions are for additional improvements in the iron ore and copper mining sectors. Kumba Iron Ore, which is 70% owned by Anglo American, was on pace to produce between 42m and 44m tonnes of iron ore in 2017.

This article first appeared in our February 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine

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