Johannesburg, Jun 11, 2010 (Business Day/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- SA's mining industry continued its recovery from the global economic downturn in April, with output growing 2,7% year on year, although there were lower production figures for commodities, including gold and copper.
National mining production hit a low point early last year as international demand for commodities slumped during the economic crisis, but increasing industrial activity in India and China had subsequently driven up prices, encouraging miners to boost output.
April's figures marked the fourth successive month of year-on-year output increases.
Economists were cautiously optimistic in response. "It's certainly a good sign for the wider economy that both mining and manufacturing figures are increasing," said Mike Schussler of Economists.co.za. "But this is coming off a low base - last April was the low point for these industries. We would really have expected to see a pick-up by now."
The biggest annual production increase was in the diamond industry, which grew output 117,1%, while manganese ore production was up 104,1%. Iron-ore output rose 25,8%.
Nedbank chief economist Dennis Dykes said the diamond increase was unsurprising, since the industry had been "decimated" in the early part of last year. "Demand for jewellery completely fell away, so it's coming off a diabolically low base there."
A 21,7% fall in copper output was mainly due to less construction and lower demand in China, he said.
Gold production also fell in the year to April, by 6,2%, despite gold prices that have hit record highs.
SA's gold miners have battled with rising costs and falling grades.
But Imara SP Reid analyst Percy Takunda said the decline in production did not necessarily mean a corresponding deterioration in the prospects of gold mining houses.
"They've been rationalising recently, focusing on quality rather than volume. They didn't start mining at those depths just yesterday."
There would be lag of about six months before high gold prices led to increased production, he said.