In the key area of catalytic converter manufacturing –the industrial cornerstone of beneficiation in this country — 16,2-million catalytic converters were exported last year, representing about 15% of global catalytic converter production.
In terms of value this means that the catalytic converter industry generated export revenue of R21,8-billion and beneficiated about R9,3-billion worth of platinum, palladium and rhodium in 2007.
This is a significant contribution to the South African economy, says Paul Thompson, commercial manager in the emission control technologies business at the Germiston-based plant of multinational Johnson Matthey, which is dedicated to autocatalyst manufacturing.
This substantial contribution to the economy comes against the backdrop of two major concerns within the industry, which government is addressing. One of these is the long-awaited Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP) review, the outcome of which is expected to be critical to the sustainability and future growth of beneficiation in this country. With the current MIDP scheme, the net benefit to an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) bringing business to South Africa is already marginal and the new scheme will have to be sustainable to justify these companies remaining in the country, Thompson says.
The second concern relates to the issuing of beneficiation licences. Until now beneficiators have applied to obtain licences to trade in precious metals and transport them. But under the new Precious Metals Act these companies now have to comply with the rules of the Mining Charter.
Says Thompson: “We believe as an industry that we should not be classified under the Mining Charter as we are in fact part of the automotive industry. The industry is working with the various government departments to try to resolve the issue.”