Generally considered to be a growth driver for a range of industrial gases, infrastructure investment looks set to continue across the African continent, despite the onset of recession.

African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Gwede Mantashe revealed recently that South Africa would not slow down its planned infrastructure investment, despite the country’s economy officially entering a recession.

According to Creamer Media’s Engineering News, Mantashe stated that government spending would act as a counter-cyclical intervention, and would assist in creating new economic capacity in South Africa.

It was also expected that this spending would help South Africa recover quicker, once the economic slowdown receded. Government is spending R787bn over the next three years on infrastructure.

Furthermore, Mantashe is believed to have said that it was important for South Africa to be actively involved in the economic recovery of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has been in the economic headlines itself of late, with Engineering News reporting that the Republic could soon be the subject of heavy investment in its mining sector.

Abundant reserves
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai apparently said the southern African country could attract up to $16bn in exploration and mining investment, if it corrects policies that have scared away foreign investors.

Mining has become a pillar of the country's battered economy, following the collapse of commercial farming, with gold alone generating a third of all export revenue.

Yet large mining houses have observed a cautious distance from Zimbabwe's mining sector, after an economic crisis thought to have been worsened by President Robert Mugabe's policies. Tsvangirai indicated that the global mining boom witnessed in the past few years could resume by mid next year, which the country could take advantage of by having attractive policies.

There has been no exploration since 2002 in Zimbabwe, which has the second largest platinum deposits after South Africa and boasts large reserves of gold, copper, coal and nickel.

The exploration and subsequent production of such reserves can potentially mean good news for the gases business.

Oxygen is the main gas used in the non-ferrous metals production industry. Its primary role is to enhance the efficiency of smelting and furnace processes, used for the production of cola and nickel for example. It can either be used to enrich the combustion air stream or is input via burners.

The most commonly used process for extracting gold from complex, low grade ore meanwhile, is a metallurgical technique commonly known as the cyanide process. Oxygen is again the most fundamental gas used here, as one of the re-agents consumed during dissolution of gold into the cyanide solution.