We believe that sustainable development is a shared responsibility. It is not an outcome we can deliver in isolation. Society, industry and government must all contribute and work together to achieve meaningful results. Karin Ireton
The theme for this comment was promoted by the suite of papers presented in the last issue of the Journal. I have previously commented on one of these papers, but there is such a wealth of value in this group of presentations of an international series of symposia on the topic of long range strategic planning in the mining and metallurgical industry that I felt that further comment was justified. In particular the paper by G.L. Smith and co-authors from Anglo Platinum was quite remarkable in the comprehensive and detailed account of the long range strategic planning procedures used at this company. I am sure that it must rank among the most thorough in the world of mining.
The exploitation of mineral resources is among the most complex of business enterprises. Almost invariably the heterogeneous orebody is of a complex highly
variable character and its exploitation encompasses more uncertainties and statistical variability and operational technical dangers and challenges than most other global
enterprises. In the paper from Anglo Platinum, the integration of the multi-component analyses and the coordination of methodology to generate a quantitative
DCF multi-dimensional strategic and long range plan are almost as complete and rigorous as can be devised. The erudition of the methodology has, I suspect, a
much greater application in many aspects of national strategic planning for research and development. I have been looking out for such a high level of statistical
versatility to apply to problems associated with job creation and the corresponding skills and the education needed for this. Some years back I attempted a broad
brush approach based on some elementary discounted cash flow analysis to illustrate the enormous returns that could be achieved by greater investment in
education and pursuit of employment opportunities. I am hoping that in the right hands, the example in Smith’s paper provides statistical program which can handle the
complexity needed to quantify benefits and to select from directions from a portfolio of options. This is sadly needed. There is much political posturing on job creation and education towards skill development among impoverished rural populations. But apart from a mad rush to build infrastructure for 2010 I see no detailed strategic plan at a national level. In fact, my perception is that the major progress in this direction is from the mining industry as evidenced by the impressive report cards that are regularly being submitted in terms of the sustainability clause in the Mining Charter.
I suggest that their sustainability efforts and successes can and must activate more meaningful national programmes. It is a mammoth task which cannot be undertaken in isolation. But a recent proclamation by Government that they are prepared to subsidize efforts by other sectors could be taken up by the mining industry to activate a more profound national cooperative crusade with their instigation and strategic planning responsibility.
There should be no holding back on funding from the state coffers. To educate and create jobs for what are probably 10 to 20 million people implies a resultant
positive cash flow of the order of a trillion rands income per annum, almost equal to our current GDP Frankly I cannot imagine any other policy decision which could have a more dramatic impact on the national prosperity and acclamation from Africa and globally. In spite of the dearth of meaningful specific action proposals from the politicians there are a host of opportunities for rapid activity in evaluation and selective implementation. To elaborate on these in any detail would take a bookful of Journal Comments but perhaps I might expand on some domains that contradict the log jam that exists as an outcome of conventional civil service culture.
Numerically the most important domain is that of agriculture but not the conventional activity of largescale mechanized dry land farming which is log jammed
by not enough arable land, drought and low efficiencies of fertilizer and water usage. The employment potential lies in the scientific irrigation methods achieving up to
five times the water and nutrient efficiency in transpiration and equivalent land utilization. This will be a communal multi-crop cluster farming utilizing
domestic effluent and treated mine or industrial effluents. It will be based on zero waste philosophy with full use of the biomass photosynthesized from solar
energy. What is not used for food and animal feeding will join the other waste biomass, including manure and sludge from domestic water treatment, to produce, by
way of anaerobic digestion, methane and a recycle of nutrients. Bio-methane is the workhorse of biofuels capable of providing direct heating, electric power and
even diesel, ethanol, and hydrogen for fuel cells by catalytic conversion. This makes a mockery of the food versus biofuels controversy. In fact there could be
significant carbon credits allocated to such farming. The land needs can range from desert sand to old detoxified slimes dams or terraces on mountain sides. Employment
multiplication factors can be as high as 3 or 4 times in utilizing leather, skins, fibres, oils and similar by products. There are in this domain a host of options to
be evaluated in terms of crops, climates, water sources, and population cultures.
The domain that I find most fascinating is that of education in the mining communities. Here the concept is one of an integration of teaching, learning, mentoring,
development and research. It is purposely conceived to break the logjam of civil service structures and bureaucratic scope definitions, pitiful incomes and few
personal incentives. There will be a structure but movement and opportunities between school level teaching technical, agricultural, and medical and business colleges with mentors, learners, lecturers, researchers, and professionals intermingling and interchangeable. They will be elite and of a stature to accommodate international staff and visitors. Associated with the above major employment areas are the specialized services such as veterinary, microbiological, analytical, food processing, water and
effluent treatment, community health, and clinical and paramedical services.
Other domains will be tourism, sports (which now has a huge business footprint), mining and metallurgical equipment manufacturing industries which are already
on the go by outsourcing... There are many other possibilities already underway in the current sustainability programmes of the mining industry. The point I make is that there is no shortage of concepts which can, after preliminary evaluation and selection, be made the focus of a rigorous statistical business and technical feasibility study. What I am suggesting in my typical visionary way is a major nationwide campaign to at least obtain a reaction to the appeal of Karin Ireton quoted at the head of this Comment. I do not believe that this should involve the mining industry in additional funding. There are many other stakeholders to contribute and if space had
permitted I could suggest how best to locate such funding.
As to how to get started, I am bold to suggest that the SAIMM convene a national strategic conference along similar lines to that convened for the Carbon Capture and Sequestration conference in September. Almost every government ministry and definitely all the research councils should be invited to such a ‘sustainable employment conference’. From the concepts generated at the conference a selection would be made by way of a panel for detailed feasibility analysis using techniques from the mining industry. From such evaluations active steps could be proposed for implementation, on a national basis. Perhaps this could be timed to sustain the fervour of
patriotic enthusiasm in the aftermath of World Soccer 2010.
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