Mining: winners and losers of 2015

Mining: winners and losers of 2015

How did South Africa’s major minerals do last year? With mining recently under the spotlight, Stats SA’s latest Mining: Production and sales release provides an overview of mining performance in 2015.

The mining industry performed better in 2015 than it did in 2014. Annual mining production was up by 3,5% in 2015, following a drop of 1,4% in 20141.


The four most important minerals to the South African mining industry are coal, gold, platinum group metals (PGMs) and iron ore. Together, the four contribute 80% to total mineral sales.



PGMs were the main contributor to the 3,5% rise in overall mining production. Of the four major minerals, the PGM group was the only one to record a production increase in 2015. The low base created in 2014 by the PGM miners’ strike saw PGMs performing strongly year-on-year in the first half of 2015, with production rising by 46,2% for the year as a whole.


So is it really fair to celebrate such a large percentage increase when all we are doing is comparing with a year (2014) that recorded abnormally low production levels? Turning the clock back a little further, it might come as a surprise that 2015 was the best year on record for PGMs since 2011. Production in 2015 was 4,2% higher compared with 2013, and 8,3% higher compared with 2012.


Iron ore

Iron ore was the biggest loser in 2015, falling by 8,6%. South Africa’s iron ore production plunged from 80,8 million tonnes in 2014 to 73 million tonnes in 2015 – hardly surprising in the context of weak demand and a 42% decrease in iron ore US dollar prices2.


South Africa is a major producer of iron ore, which is the key input for basic iron and steel manufactured products. The manufacturing of these products decreased by 7% in 20153.



Gold production fell to 143 711 kg in 2015 compared with 151 622 kg mined the previous year. The seasonally adjusted production index decreased by 5,4% in 2015. Although the dollar price of gold decreased by 10,3% in 2015, the depreciation of the local currency saw the rand price of gold rising by 7,4% in 2015 (R474 090 per kg in 2015 compared with R441 246 per kg in 2014).



During the winter of 2015, coal production declined by 4,1% compared with 2014’s winter, in correspondence with a 2,9% fall in national electricity generation and a 2,3% fall in electricity consumed4. For the entire year of 2015, seasonally adjusted coal production fell by 3,3%.


The mining industry remains an important player in South Africa, contributing 8% to the nation’s economy5 and employing 5% of the formal workforce6. It remains to be seen how the industry will perform in 2016. With current economic conditions placing pressure on both South African consumers and industries alike, it seems only prudent that everyone should hang on to their hats and prepare for a possibly bumpy 2016.


1 Download Mining: Production and sales, December 2015 release here.

2 Iron ore spot 62% FE (US$ / Tonne).

3 Visit the archive for Manufacturing: Production and sales here.

4 Visit the archive for Electricity and available for distribution here.

5 Download the Gross domestic product (GDP), 4th quarter 2015 release here.

6 Download the Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES), September 2015 release here.