A case for establishment of the Ferrous Materials Development Network (FMDN) in South Africa
South Africa is known to be one of the mineral endowed countries in the world, bearing large quantities of iron, chrome, manganese and vanadium reserves that are key to iron and steel industries. It is thus vital to leverage on this natural resource endowment to build a dynamic industrial economy capable of creating sustainable jobs. Central to achieving this goal is the need to derive greater economic value from these natural resources, which will reduce import levels and create export opportunities. Currently, however, the local iron and steel industry is forced to navigate some of the known challenges such as the cost of energy, transportation, labour and steel, in order to remain competitive and operational. These matters which hamper the realization of beneficiation aspirations do not only have a huge impact on the downstream value-adding steel industry but also make the cost of doing business in SA unattractive.
Consequently, based on its capability, relevancy and experience in supporting the iron and steel sector for many years, Mintek has been entrusted with the responsibility to host the Ferrous Materials Development Network (FMDN) by government through advanced materials initiative (AMI) programme to coordinate research on ferrous materials in the country.
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the need for interdependent research activities in ferrous materials in South Africa, which is underpinned by collaborative research, development and innovation (RDI) efforts between science councils, academia and industry. These activities are aimed at generating local know how, fostering local and international collaboration, development of human capital (HCD), supporting job creation through beneficiation, identification of relevant advanced technologies to improve competitiveness, localization of designated castings, design and development of new ferrous materials with enhanced properties to enable access to niche export markets as well as improving local capability to produce high-end ferrous products for critical sectors of the economy such as petrochemical, energy generation, transportation, mining, etc.