Limpopo To Establish Special Economic Zones

Lebowakgomo - Limpopo is partnering with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to establish Special Economic Zones, Premier Cassel Mathale announced during his State of the Province Address at the legislature on Thursday.

Dti released its draft Special Economic Zones Policy and Bill during 2012 and invited the country's nine provinces to submit proposals for the establishment of Economic Zones.

"We are happy to report to this House that we are the only province to receive provisional approval for two Special Economic Zones," he said.

The first Special Economic Zone, Mathale said, will be at the border town of Musina and will be a huge benefit to the people of the province due to its strategic geographic location as the entry port to the rest of Africa.

According to the Premier, this economic zone will focus on logistics and the beneficiation of coal, while the second economic zone will be in Greater Tubatse Municipality, where it will explore the possibilities in the Platinum Group Metals value chain.

He said currently, there is a feasibility study underway with support from Anglo-Platinum which seeks to establish a hydrogen fuel cell industry in the province.

The project, according to Mathale, will have several benefits, including the possibility of providing a reliable source of electricity to communities in the province who are currently connected to the electricity grid of Eskom.

The Premier said the establishment of the hydrogen fuel cell industry will also create an additional demand for platinum.

"What is more interesting and encouraging is that work has already begun to institutionalize these two Special Economic Zones.

"In Tubatse, this includes the Department of Science and Technology, the private sector and our two universities in the province, while in Musina negotiations have started with Transnet and the land owners in order to ensure that we maximise the full potential of this mineral rich area," he said.

Mathale said is the view of his provincial government that the two special economic zones will add the necessary impetus to the development of the identified Growth Points of Greater Tubatse, Musina and Makhado.

He also announced that De Beers will invest handsomely to build and operate a new underground mine beneath the open pit Venetia mine in Limpopo.

When completed, Mathale said the Venetia underground Mine will replace the open pit as South Africa's largest diamond mine and extend the life of the resource until 2042.

"This is a long term commitment to the future of South Africa and the largest by De Beers anywhere in the world. This is a strong sign of confidence in South African diamond and mining industry," he said.

Mathale said the construction phase will create up to 1000 new jobs, the majority of which will come from the local area, adding that most of the equipment to used will be sourced in South Africa, creating 3 000 more jobs.

Nthambeleni Gabara