‘After all these years and more than a century of mining we are still finding new ore bodies, new exciting areas,’ says Pan African Resources CEO Cobus Loots.
By Simon Brown
SIMON BROWN: I’m chatting now with Cobus Loots, the CEO of Pan African Resources. The company put out a statement which was around the renewal of Barberton Mines’ mining rights and how they’ve got a renewal for a further 30 years.
Cobus, good morning. I appreciate the early morning time. These are pretty much all of your Barberton mines – Fairview, New Consort, Sheba mines. You’ve got a renewal. So essentially you’ve got another 30 years of mining rights within those mines and those regions effective, what, June 1? So running through to 2050-odd. We’ll probably both be a lot more lazy and retired.
COBUS LOOTS: It will probably be my last renewal on Barberton. But yes, it’s great. We worked very well with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and we pushed hard. Certainly, I think it also demonstrates the remaining life of these assets. It’s incredible. We started – not me but the company – started mining in Barberton in the 1870s, and we still have sort of 20-years-plus of life on these assets. So that’s great.
SIMON BROWN: That’s actually a great point. This is probably one of – if not the longest mining space anywhere in the world. It’s like 150 years of mining. What struck me in hindsight, of course, the licences must be for a defined period. I’m assuming that as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is issuing licences that are going to have a finite period of time. Is that duration typically 30 years? Or is the DMRE going to look at circumstances on the ground, or perhaps give longer or maybe even shorter [terms]?
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COBUS LOOTS: It very much depends on the technical motivation that you put forward, Simon, on the economic lives of these mines. We’ve done a lot of work. If you recall, some years ago Barberton has always had a five- or six-year life, just because that was proven out. But we’ve imported a lot of new technology with great people looking at our mines, and we were able to motivate a 30-year life, which is why this extension was granted for that period.
It’s incredible, after all these years and more than a century of mining we are still finding new ore bodies, new exciting areas. That’s why we are investing a lot into these underground operations, also opening up new ore bodies allowing us to mine more. So yes, after all these years there is still a lot of potential in those Barberton hills.
SIMON BROWN: In the 1870s in Joburg – we started mining gold about 20-odd years later than that. Barberton, if memory serves, was the first place we really got gold going in South Africa. If we look at the Witwatersrand gold base, actually Barberton puts it to shame in many senses.
COBUS LOOTS: Yes. I think also this was also the site of southern Africa’s first stock exchange. So that shows the economic boom that the area experienced. Certainly, it doesn’t have the scale that the Wits has, but for the company like Pan African, if you look at all the gold that’s ever been mined out of those Barberton ore bodies, about 70/80% of it has come from our operations. So that tells you the quality of our operation.
SIMON BROWN: That’s Cobus Loots, CEO of Pan African Resources. Bad licences to expire, although they can also be renewed. Cobus, I appreciate the early morning time. Barberton had the first stock exchange — here’s a really useless factoid – then Kimberley, then Pietermaritzburg. The third stock exchange in South Africa was in Pietermaritzburg; no idea why – I’ve lived there. I don’t know why it had a stock exchange. It a lovely place, but I don’t know why it had a stock exchange. Joburg was the fourth stock exchange in South Africa.