Government is set to work with universities, manufacturers and researchers to ensure the industry’s longevity
For the first time there is coherent collaboration between government, the mining industry, universities, local equipment manufacturers, and the research community to develop technological solutions that will increase safety and productivity, reduce mining costs, and build backward mining linkages, which together will ensure the longevity of SA’S mining industry.
“The Mandela Mining Precinct is facilitating the acceleration of the process of mining modernisation and technological development,” says Alastair Macfarlane, co-director at the Mandela Mining Precinct, representing the Chamber of
He says while SA is exceptionally well-endowed with mineral resources and these have contributed to the development of the economy for more than a century, challenges facing the sector are reflected in recent Statistics SA reports, which show that mining and manufacturing production has declined.
In the period 2012 to 2015, more than 59,000 jobs were lost in the mining sector.
Macfarlane says mining research expenditure declined drastically by 2008.
“This was at a time when research was needed, because it was at the bottom of a down-cycle in the global mining industry, which is when innovation and modernisation are vital to reduce costs and improve extraction methods.”
According to the Chamber of Mines’ “Modernisation: Towards the Mine of Tomorrow” fact sheet, without a shift in mining methodology, the industry will fail to mine SA’S deep-level complex ore bodies profitably. This could result in the sterilisation of resources, accelerated and premature mine closures and job losses. Research suggests 200,000 job losses by 2025 could affect 2m people indirectly.
To curb the decline in mining's contribution to the economy, a government-led Phakisa Mining process was applied to the mining sector, involving stakeholders from organised labour, government departments, business, and research organisations.
“There was a realisation by all involved in the Mining Phakisa that the reinvigoration of mining research & development on a collaborative basis was necessary,” says Macfarlane.
“Instead of mining companies doing their own research behind closed doors, it was necessary to open those doors and for all to come together and share ideas on an unrestricted platform in the spirit of open innovation to establish global leadership in narrowreef, hard-rock, deep-level mining systems.
“As a result the department of science & technology (DST) and the Chamber of Mines allocated funding for partnerships in research & development, and in creating a competitive local manufacturing capability.”
Macfarlane says due to the current economics of the gold and platinum group metals (PGM) sectors, large parts of the mining industry are unprofitable. The Mandela Mining Precinct’s current focus, therefore, is on gold and PGMS.
“We have to find ways and means to unlock the remaining resources, which are deeper and more expensive to exploit and we have to find new ways of providing sustainability in those two sectors.
“We have three core programmes at the moment. The first looks at modernising current mining operations, which includes the way people work, their skills, means of communication, and some elements of mechanisation.
“The second is mechanised drilling and blasting that already has proven technology; and the third is continuous mining with 24/7 operations that still requires more fundamental research.
“In all three of those programmes we want to encourage and drive the localisation of manufacturing and eventually grow it for export,” says Macfarlane.
The Mandela Mining Precinct is aligned with the Chamber of
Mines’ 2030 Vision, the National Development Plan 2030, and the Africa Mining Vision 2050, so that SA can become the hub for the continent’s mining research and beyond, but to achieve that we first have to regenerate research capacity.”
Alastair Macfarlane: New entity to unlock growth, innovation and skills in the sector