CAPE TOWN, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday officially opened a giant zinc mine that boasts of the largest known and undeveloped zinc ore bodies in the world.
The Gamsberg Mine, situated near Aggeneys in the Northern Cape province, is a milestone in the economic development of the province and the country as a whole, the president said.
He described the project as "an important step" to revive South Africa's mining industry.
"It confirms our view that with an effective regulatory framework, improved collaboration between all stakeholders and sustained investment, mining has the potential to be a sunrise industry," Ramaphosa said.
The Vedanta Resources Limited, the largest mining company in India and the 6th largest in the world, has pledged to invest 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in the mine, of which 400 million dollars have already been spent, according to Ramaphosa.
"We welcome this substantial investment by Vedanta, which not only deepens South Africa's relationship with India but also signals Vedanta's confidence in the future of South Africa's mining industry," said Ramaphosa.
This investment by Vedanta has triggered a new wave of industrial and economic development in South Africa, he said.
The first phase of the zinc mine, which has an estimated lifespan of over 13 years, is an investment of 400 million dollars, which employ more than 3,000 people at the height of construction.
A further investment of 350 to 400 million dollars is planned for the second phase as part of a total investment plan, including future projects, estimated at 800 million dollars.
The investments that have already been made here, when taken together with the anticipated investments in further phases, will improve South Africa's position as a global player in zinc production, Ramaphosa said.
Most importantly, this investment will change the economic landscape of this region and will contribute to much-needed social development, he said.
"We are confident that we will see more mining projects of this magnitude as many more investors, like Vedanta, see the great potential not only in mining, but also across the South African economy," Ramaphosa said.
As South Africa's largest and most sparsely populated province, the Northern Cape hosts significant deposits of lead-zinc ores associated with copper and silver.
It is also home to manganese, iron ore and diamonds.
"And yet, this province remains underdeveloped," Ramaphosa said.
The province contributes just two percent of South Africa's GDP and has an expanded unemployment rate of around 39 percent, according to the president.
"Mining offers an opportunity to fundamentally change this," he said.