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Mining Journal Intelligence: World Risk Report 2020

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Another international survey gives South African mining investment the thumbs down

By: Paul Miller

The Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2020 was released on 23 February 2020 and I wrote about it here. The results were not flattering for South Africa's mining policy makers and regulators.

But I soon heard some grumbles about how small the sample of survey respondents was; how dramatic executive perceptions could shift from one year to another (it is a pure perception survey); how the total number of jurisdictions covered varied dramatically from year to year and that generally it was interesting, but not that useful. I think many of those complaints are valid, however I think it is still useful to establish a country's trajectory of travel over many years of international perception surveys. Sure, year-to-year changes might not be that useful, but over one or two decades of declining rankings then a country has more than just a perception problem. Long-term perceptions become, in my view, investment reality.

I recently discovered that there is another mining investment risk report out there - this one published by Mining Journal Intelligence, and described as "a comprehensive annual review of mining risk, including a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction ratings system and an assessment of general business and operating risks and trends."

Contained within the report is the Investment Risk Index which .."provides jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction ratings across five core areas necessary to consider when assessing mining-related risk: Legal, Governance, Social, Fiscal and Infrastructure. It applies a methodical and scientific approach by combining hard, established risk-related metrics with perceived risk to generate rounded and robust, year-on-year numbers for some 100+ jurisdictions. Perceived risk is measured by the World Risk Survey, completed by more than 900 respondents, who have shared their insight into the risk landscape for their mining jurisdiction."

So the Index combined the perceptions of respondents (more than 3 times the number of the Fraser survey) combined with "hard metrics." So I imagine the Investment Risk Index would thus be more stable over time.

Well, I took a look at the last 4-years' reports, with the last published in November 2020, noting the nature of relative rankings it is not only how well one country does, but how well other countries' perform, that matters.

  • In 2017 (the last of the Zwane years) South Africa was ranked a tied 56th position (66th percentile) with Honduras and Mongolia, of 85 jurisdictions, on an Investment Risk Index score of 53.

  • In 2018, Minister Mantashe's first year in office, South Africa slipped to a tied 64th position (67th percentile) with Mali, of 96 jurisdictions, on an Investment Risk Index score of 54.

  • In 2019, the first full year of Mining Charter III, South Africa slipped further to a tied 70th position (71st percentile) with Eritrea, Ecuador and Gabon, of 99 jurisdictions on an Investment Risk Index score of 51.

  • In 2020, South Africa dropped quite precipitously to a tied 78th position (77th percentile) with Zambia, Mauritania, North Macedonia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Kyrgyzstan, of 101 jurisdictions, on an Investment Risk Index score of 50.

So South Africa's score has remained relatively stable in a range from 50-54 with a consistent CCC rating, and yet South Africa's drop in relative ranking, especially between 2019 and 2020 has been marked. Yet again it has be concluded that standing still is clearly not good enough - attracting investment is a competitive endeavour - something South Africa's policy makers and administrators have clearly failed to realise.

Excerpts from the report can be accessed here.

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