Approach to risk management

The Merafe Board is responsible for our governance of risk and for setting levels of risk tolerance. It has tasked the Audit and Risk Committee with assisting the Board in carrying out its risk responsibilities. The process of risk management has been delegated to management and the Audit and Risk Committee, acting on behalf of the Board, ensures that there is ongoing assessment and monitoring of our risks. The Merafe Executive Committee is accountable to the Board for designing, implementing and monitoring Merafe's risk management processes and senior managers are responsible for effectively managing risks within their respective areas of responsibility.

Merafe's risk management policy and framework describes our risk management philosophy, approach and process and guides the implementation of our risk management process in a uniform manner across the Company.

Certain risks are inherent in a mining business and these need to be managed effectively. The Venture's risk management system allows it to pursue business opportunities and grow shareholder value, while at the same time developing and protecting its people, assets, environment and reputation. Its processes are defined within a risk framework that is well understood across its operations.

Both Merafe and the Venture undertake comprehensive quarterly risk reviews, the results of which are included in their annual business plans and regularly reviewed.

The Board will continue in 2022 to focus on the principal risks set out hereunder and also attempt to identify any further emerging risks in a fast-changing environment.

This summary should be read in conjunction with Material issues set out on material issues of this report.

Principal risks

Our principal risks, which include risks related to the Venture, are the following:

  • The possible negative impact on our earnings of commodity price volatility, currency exchange rate fluctuations and the health of the global economy. Controlling costs is the most effective manner to weather such volatility and the Venture prides itself on being a low-cost producer and cost control is a key management performance measurement. The Venture's development of cost-efficient proprietary technology plays a significant part in its cost reduction. We are also engaging with government regarding carbon taxes and electricity costs. The preventative actions the Venture takes to reduce the impact of such volatility, which include managing production levels, scaling down mining and smelting activities during downturns in global demand and maintaining its position as the lowest cost ferrochrome producer in South Africa, are described in the principal risks and uncertainties table.
  • Lack of reliable and competitively priced energy supply could impact the Venture's ability to operate. The Venture has an ongoing programme, and is engaged with various governmental departments, to assess and monitor energy-related risks, including scenario analyses. We also manage the risk by implementing energy-efficiency plans and assessing the risks associated with energy supply at the design phase of our projects. The Venture operates in a high-risk safety environment, with potential injuries, illnesses and fatalities being inherent to the Venture's operations. As such, the company is subject to extensive health, safety and environmental regulations and legislation as well as community expectations. The Venture has invested heavily in workplace safety training, programmes and initiatives to promote and reward safe behaviour at all of our operations by all of our employees and adopting a zero-tolerance policy to non-adherence of these requirements. HIV and Aids and other diseases (such as the current COVID-19 pandemic) remain major healthcare challenges for our industry, and if the Venture's employees suffer from symptoms associated with any of these diseases it could have a negative impact on its production levels and our profitability. The Venture gives these issues priority and significant resources are committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace, keeping our impact on the environment to a minimum and addressing the impact of HIV and Aids and other diseases on our employees and the communities in the vicinity of our operations.
  • A possible tailings facility/dam failure as well as any insufficient capacity at any of the facilities represent significant risks to the operations and reputation of the Venture. Our tailings dams are regularly monitored by competent engineers to ensure that any risks of failure are detected promptly to allow corrective measures to be implemented. Capacity monitoring technologies are also employed to ensure that sufficient capacity is available as and when required.
  • The Department of Water and Sanitation are planning on the implementation of substantial increases in water tariffs over the next three to ten years with increased requests from governmental institutions for mining houses to invest in water infrastructure to assist in providing a secure water supply. This could increase production costs and limit expansion potential of the Venture's operations. Actions to mitigate this risk are the implementation of contracts undertaken with water providers, as well as the increase of reservoir facilities to ensure constant supply when water is scarce. The Venture has also successfully reduced its water consumption per tonne of product produced.
  • A breach in the Venture's Information Technology (IT) system by fraudsters in an attempt to gain confidential information or to sabotage the operation of the company could result in external parties having access to confidential and sensitive information that can be used against the company. Furthermore, systems could become unavailable or not function correctly. The Venture makes significant investments in IT security measures to minimise the risk of potential breaches wherever possible.
  • The socio-political and economic climate in South Africa (especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic) has seen a significant increase in unemployment in the country. This scenario creates opportunities for increased crime and industrial unrest, causing the risk of the Venture not winning broad support for its activities from local communities. Both of these possibilities could result in disruptions affecting our profitability. To reduce these risks, the Venture's stakeholder engagement and responsiveness efforts play a critical role. In addition, Merafe and the Venture invest in social and labour plan commitments, which include local economic development, healthcare and education projects. We also invest in corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Delays or non-delivery of final product to customers could occur should any breakdowns in the supply chain be experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this uncertainty, with border challenges experienced throughout 2021 which will remain uncertain into 2022. Additional storage facilities have been secured at various ports to ensure that stock holdings are available when and as required to meet contractual deliveries.
  • Any disruption in the supply of raw materials to the production process could have detrimental consequences on the Venture's ability to operate. Supply contracts are entered into as far as possible to secure delivery and raw material stock holdings have been increased to ensure that enough is available should an industry shortage be experienced.
  • A lack of key and skilled employees within the business to support the transformation strategy of the Venture could result in financial loss and reputational damage. The Venture continues to implement management retention strategies and staff training programmes to enhance the transformation of the group. Investors' negative perceptions of the South African mining industry impact on investors' appetite for investment in South African mining stocks. Merafe focuses on maintaining relationships with our existing investors and building new relationships. To achieve this our team regularly makes presentations and has discussions with investors and potential investors. We also keep investors informed through our reporting and our website.
  • Inability to obtain debt finance due to a downgrading of Merafe's credit status could adversely affect our financial position. To counteract this risk we maintain a strong balance sheet, low gearing, a good reputation and relationship with our bankers and have tangible assets to secure financing.
  • Empowerment credentials: In this regard see our commentary in the Material issues section in this report and the Chairperson's report in this report.

See our Material issues for our principal risks, uncertainties and opportunities table.