Assessment of the performance and sustainability of mining sub-soil assets for economic development in South Africa

09 Jul 2008

A natural resource accounting approach was applied in this study to evaluate the performance and sustainability of mining practices and strategies in South Africa (SA). The study showed that except for a brief period during the 1980s, rent capture was very low and almost all the resource rent from minerals dissipated to private companies. Recently, however, user costs have appeared to have been reasonably recovered by taxes and institutional royalties and the capital component of the rent (user cost) has fully been reinvested by mining companies. While adequate reinvestment of recovered user costs in alternative forms of capital might imply sustainable management, this can only hold under the assumptions of perfect substitution between human-made and natural capital of the weak sustainability (WS) paradigm. However, even if one adopts WS, the present analysis could not provide adequate evidence in support of the prudence of mining activities in the country. This is due to a lack of adequate information on the proportions of royalties and taxes reinvested collected by the government and private landowners. Moreover, the fact that this study does not account for the environmental impacts of mining is another important limitation on the ability of the present analysis to conclude that mineral resources have been prudently exploited in SA.