South Africa’s mining industry needs to have the right infrastructure in place to tap the next commodities boom, the country’s top mining economist said during the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa conference.

South Africa’s Chamber of Mines chief economist Roger Baxter said that alongside infrastructure, ramping up skilled human capital was also crucial for cashing in on the next boom.

This comes at a time when Fitch Ratings predicted a further fall in South African mining output in 2009 due to the ongoing global economic crisis.

Statistics South Africa has said mining production in the first quarter of 2009 was down by 12.8% compared to previous quarter ended December 2008.

Baxter predicted a slow economic growth in the next two years but is confident of another commodities boom.

South Africa failed to capitalise on previous commodity highs due to a lack of skilled workers, infrastructure and other constraints, he said.

He directed the industry to gear up for long-term challenges.

South Africa’s mining industry accounts for about one third of country’s total exports.

By staff writer