Gwede Mantashe mocked for promoting 'unobtainium' hoax mineral to foreign investors

Gwede Mantashe.
Gwede Mantashe.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe is the unfortunate butt of jokes on Thursday after trying to attract investment to South Africa - by peddling an April Fool’s joke.

"To be fair‚ the original story is very convincing. It quotes Head Researcher Jan van der Merwe as saying: 'Hazenile‚ the active element of the battery‚ is a close relative of Fingerite. We believe this is a bigger discovery than unobtainium'‚" author Gus Silber shared.

The minister promoted a mineral that does not exist at the Africa Down Under mining conference in Perth‚ Australia‚ this week.

Business Day reports Mantashe told about 400 delegates on Wednesday that the “Hazenile” mineral was discovered in “abundance in the area between the crypte and throne room in the Congo [sic] caves in the Western Cape”.

Mantashe‚ according to Business Day‚ added that the mineral “will be crucial in the manufacturing of battery storage technologies”.

“The problem is the mineral Hazenile does not exist in the Congo Caves‚ nor the Cango Caves‚” Business Day reported.

According to the newspaper‚ the pranksters had flagged “Congo Caves” in its story as part of its April Fool's joke.

Twitter users weighed on the minister’s blunder’s blunder‚ with some questioning his credentials.

“If we had ministers appointed on merit - i.e. people skilled and educated in the fields they represent - this cringe worthy stuff wouldn't happen. Instead we have unqualified cadres deployed to ministries they have no clue about‚” said Jacques Maree.

Former Western Cape premier Helen Zille wrote: “He meant Helen Zille. They have been trying to sell me to the Aussies for years”.

“Operating through a hazenile of ignorance and ineptitude. So embarrassing‚” said Lupina the Laniferous.

According to an extract of the minister's speech‚ as published on MiningReview.com‚ Mantashe pronounced: "As things stand‚ there is no country that can match South Africa in terms of mineral diversity offerings‚ we are number one and we are here to say we are open for business."

"While commodities like gold are in decline‚ the demand for base metals like zinc‚ copper and nickel is projected to increase in the near future on the backdrop of the planned global infrastructure development projects and growing demand for battery metals.

"As such‚ base metals are the 'newly revived' commodities in the South African mining space and present huge opportunities for growth."

"...As we continue discovering new minerals‚ we grow the prospects of mining in South Africa.

"The discovery of battery minerals such as lithium‚ graphite and cobalt and hazenile also present opportunities for the growth of the mining sector in South Africa.

"Hazenile has been discovered in abundance in the area between the Crypte and Throne Room caves in the Congo Caves in the Western Cape‚ this mineral element will be crucial in the manufacturing of battery storage technologies.

"We aim to increase our share of the global exploration expenditure from the current 1% to over 5% in the medium term. To expedite exploration activities‚ we are‚ through the Council of Geosciences‚ undertaking a 10-year intensive mapping programme which will produce detailed geological maps...‚" the minister said.

Pity the speech-writer and send good wishes to the mapping experts - because the SA government has an ambitious goal.

Mantashe told the investors: ".... Investment inflows to South Africa’s mining industry form part of implementing South African government’s vision of attracting US$100 billion to the economy within five years."

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