Re­build­ing ca­pac­ity

Govern­ment is set to work with uni­ver­si­ties, man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­searchers to en­sure the in­dus­try’s longevity

Financial Mail - - SPECIAL REPORT -

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

Mines.

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.