The SAIMM is a professional institute with local and international links aimed at assisting members source information about technological developments in the mining, metallurgical and related sectors.
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Journal President's Cornerpages

Of sun, shells, sand, and sea …

I recently visited the Eastern Cape for the occasion of my eldest son’s wedding. It is the first time I had visited beautiful Morgan Bay, and we ventured up the coast into the former Transkei for some sightseeing. At one point we deviated onto a very small dirt track (fortunately we had a 4x4 vehicle) and arrived at a small cove amongst the dunes. I noticed large areas of the beach were covered in a crust of shiny black sand which, when I picked it up, felt quite heavy.

The penny dropped: this was the heavy, titaniferous metal sand that is the subject of the recent judgement in the Xolobeni mining case, whereby the High Court ruled in favour of the customary Umgungundlovo community, who opposed the mining of the dunes to recover the heavy minerals.

Local is lekker: building a global mining supply chain from South Africa

Oh my goodness, it’s nearly Christmas! How the time flies when you are enjoying yourself. It’s year end and time to reflect, as well as to look forward to the New Year. 2018 has been a tumultuous year for the mining industry in South Africa, what with the appointment of a new President of South Africa, a new Minister of Mineral Resources, and a Mining Charter that we can work with as an industry.

Within the Charter is the key aspect of local procurement of capital goods, consumables, and services by and for the industry. This focus is aimed at stimulating the mining goods and services supply chain with the purpose of creating employment and export opportunities, with special emphasis on historically disadvantaged South Africans and communities, BEE credentials of suppliers, youth, and women in mining.

A new dawn for the mining industry?

As I sit here writing this President’s Corner, today’s dawn has brought with it the first real rains of the summer. I am reminded that the rain represents a blessing showered down upon us, and our country. Is this a blessing for our industry?

Much has changed for the mining industry over the last few months, or has it?

First, after the inauguration of the new President of South Africa, the promise of a ‘new dawn’ for South Africa and its peoples created a sense of euphoria, popularly described as ‘Ramaphoria’. Exactly what the new dawn will bring for us is not altogether clear, however. Sello Lediga, writing in the Daily Maverick on 7 May 2018, points to the following as four pillars that could assist the President in clarifying the concept, these being: 

Safety, health, and the environment through the eyes of MineSafe

It is an honour for the President of the Institute to write the President’s Corner note for the Journal, especially so when it is the first one after inauguration as President. It was indeed a great pleasure to present the story of research and development in the mining industry in South Africa in my Presidential Address at the AGM, and to be able to describe the journey so far that the Mandela Mining Precinct has travelled. The work of the Precinct has focused on the research and development of mining systems, of which health, safety and environmental topics are an essential component. What has become very clear, and flowing out of the Mining Phakisa in 2015, is the need for a collaborative approach in this research work.

Seeing the value of the SAIMM

Being the President of a professional organization like the SAIMM can be quite demanding. However, it’s not always stressful because there are quite a few pleasures and privileges that accompany the job. One of the significant pleasures is the interaction with members at all the numerous events that are organized by the Institute. Here you get to talk and listen to the views of the members on a number of issues facing the minerals industry. You get to hear all the good, the not so good, and the bad about the industry that we serve. You are always kept up to date, simply through that interaction with other professionals in the field. This is of significant value, especially considering how quickly technology is changing the minerals industry landscape.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Minerals Industry

A number of studies have confirmed that there is a positive relationship between diversity and business performance, and that diversity in leadership roles is what tends to define the success of a business. This is because knowledge creation and application is enriched by a variety of skills, experience, and cultural diversity. The more diverse a team, the more perspectives, the broader and more challenging the conversations, and the better the decisions that are finally taken.

Upskilling the heroes of the mining industry

I recently had the pleasure and opportunity to listen to one of the most well-known and admired person in South Africa; the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. She gave keynote addresses at the International Women’s Day celebration hosted by the Motsepe Foundation and at the pre-AGM dinner for the Chamber of Mines (now known as the Minerals Council South Africa, or MCSA). On both occasions, she gave a remarkably inspiring and thoughtprovoking speech on what it means to lead and fight for what you believe in. At the MCSA dinner, she not only spoke of the need for ethical leadership but also discussed the importance of being attuned to the needs and realities of a country. She talked of being persecuted for her stance on corruption, and I realized that South Africa admires her for her stance and the contribution she made to the betterment of the country. In her speech at the Women’s Day celebration event, she spoke of some unsung and unseen heroes; those ‘signposts’ that make huge differences for others without much benefit to themselves.

The future of Africa is not so dark

This month’s Journal edition celebrates the impressive research achievements of some of the 2017 graduates in the mining and metallurgical sector. However, of the eight papers that were selected from the Student Colloquium in October last year, only four were submitted for the reviewing process. Two papers were subsequently accepted for publication and two are being reworked. This is a little disappointing because the Journal aims to profile, each year, a number of papers that are the outcomes of research presented by students at the well-established annual SAIMM Student Colloquium. The presentations are a reflection of the wide variety of research being conducted in various institutions of mining and metallurgy in Southern Africa, and showcase the magic that happens when students challenge the status quo in their fields. It is a missed opportunity not to have this work published. Through novel scientific fundamentals and unique combinations of knowledge, these young researchers produce surprising results and new discoveries that can create the foundation for many innovative opportunities and technologies in Africa. And Africa is in great need of innovative African-driven technologies to solve its problems.

Climate change: the impact on the mining sector

There has recently been a lot of talk about global warming and its impact on weather patterns, i.e. climate change. A keynote address at the recent Infacon conference in Cape Town focused on climate change. Some people believe that this is all a lot of hype. Others (myself included), like the keynote speaker, believe that there is some evidence pointing to climate change – dry seasons becoming longer and wet seasons becoming shorter. Rainfall is reported to have become more variable than before, with rain coming in more concentrated, violent bursts. The end of March, for instance, saw a lot of rain leading to floods in Gauteng. A number of roads were closed due to bridges collapsing. In Cape Town, in contrast, there are serious concerns about water shortages, with Day Zero being a common topic of conversations at events and functions. Similarly, if you tune into the radio, you hear more often than not that the next world war will be fought, not for land or some other resource, but for water. Then I look around and see families, friends, and neighbours busy with water harvesting projects.

Shaping the mining sector through inclusive leadership

Two weeks ago while having my morning cup of tea, I contemplated, reflected, and marveled at the changes that have occurred in the country and the mining sector in the first six months of my term as the President of the SAIMM. I did not realize then that there was one big change around the corner. They say that a week is a long time in politics, and we have seen how true this statement can be with the recent significant changes that have transpired in Southern Africa; in our beloved neighbor country Zimbabwe as well as our home country South Africa. The mining sector has played, and continues to play, a significant role in the history and development of these two countries. At the same time, leadership and governance play a major part in paving the path for the mining sector. According to a recently released Chamber of Mines survey, the creation of attractive policies, a regulatory and governance environment through ethical leadership, good governance, and the adoption of stable and predictable policies can result in significant investment in the mining sector. Clearly, leadership is a crucial element in the development of the mining sector. Leadership is instrumental in achieving social change, and is imperative in unlocking growth and transformation in any industry. Good and visionary leadership can shift a country from obscurity into the spotlight. A good and visionary leader can shift a company from a loss- making entity to a profitmaking organization that can make a significant and meaningful contribution to national revenue or gross domestic product. There are a few examples in the history of the mining sector that attest to this. Similarly, a good community leader can drive and achieve significant social change leading to community upliftment. Imagine, therefore, what a country stands to gain when leaders from all sectors work together. Imagine if the leadership of the mining stakeholders such as the government, labour, business, and the community played an equal and a more prominently positive role in policy development. The potential for the development of attractive policies that can boost private sector investment, stimulate growth, and improve employment, with benefits that cascade down to and transform local communities, is extremely high.