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Journal President's Cornerpages

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.

Education for careers that do not yet exist

Universities have opened their doors for the new academic year, welcoming both the old and the new students. Every year there is an increase in demand for university places as young people look into acquiring a tertiary education as a means of securing and empowering their future. Following the newly announced free education dispensation by the South African government, university placements promise to be much more highly competitive as more students are expected to take advantage of this dispensation to gain the academic skills that will form the foundation for their careers.

The importance of higher education cannot be overemphasized. Countries look to universities for the capacity and skills that drive local economies, lead effective governments, support civil society, and at the same time guide very important decisions, which affect entire societies. University education is expected to enable individuals to expand their knowledge, express their thoughts and ideas clearly, gain higher level skills, increase their understanding of the world and their community, and thus contribute meaningfully to the development of the country’s economy. But, most importantly, the resultant graduates should be dynamic and easily adapt to the changing needs of the industry that they will serve. This aspect has become more significant and relevant when considering the modern-day technological developments and industrial changes.

A new year, new reflections

The start of a new year is always worth celebrating. We celebrate the achievements of the previous year. We also celebrate making it through the previous year’s challenges and, with optimism, look forward to twelve more fruitful months ahead. However, the fact that a year of our life has just passed by also usually leads to introspection. We question our decisions, actions, ambitions (or lack thereof), as well as many other things we have done or not done in the previous year.

A Christmas gift for the Institute

It is the end of the year and Christmas is in sight. We have all had a busy year and thus look forward to a restful break, which we will fill with new memories with our families and friends. Above all, we all look forward to receiving that well-chosen wonderful gift from loved ones. A gift is always treasured. It might be something that we did not ask for but somehow our loved ones always manage to surprise us by recognizing our need or yearning for that particular item. The fact that they understand us, love and care enough to go out of their way to give us that special something is a gift in itself. They make a sacrifice for a greater return; our happiness. A gift does not have to be expensive, it does not have to be wrapped up in an expensive wrapping paper and tied with a costly ribbon. For most of us there is one gift that is more valuable than anything bought in a shop; more appreciated by its recipient than anything wrapped in pretty colourful paper; and sure to be remembered for years to come. This is the gift of time. Time is the most valuable gift because it is a portion of your life that you can never get back. Time freely given is truly priceless to those who receive it.

Singing the praises of our SAIMM members

I would like to welcome you all to the new 2017/2018 term of the SAIMM. I hope you are all as excited as I am about what lies ahead. I am greatly looking forward to spending the next twelve months with you as we discuss and delve into different topics that interest us as members of this marvellous Institute.

As you are all aware, the SAIMM was established in 1894 and will be turning 125 years of age in 2019. The Institute has been built on a strong foundation of selfless commitment and diligence from its members; mostly on the basis of volunteerism. I would therefore, like to start off the year by acknowledging and thanking all the members of the SAIMM who have selflessly given of themselves and their time in the past, and will hopefully continue to do so in the future to keep the mission and goals of the Institute alive and active. It is indeed not easy, especially as we try to balance our demanding careers and personal lives. However, it does add value to our worth as we contribute to a bigger goal than our individual selves.

Women in the mining and minerals industry

Summer is finally here and Christmas is around the corner. I do hope that you are all enjoying the warm weather that is prevalent in Southern Africa at this time of the year and, at the same time, have started shopping for those elusive but perfect Christmas gifts for friends and families. Since taking over the reins as the President of the SAIMM, I have been invited to a number of events and meetings in the past few months. I have interacted with a lot of professionals and held discussions on a number of diverse and relevant (and even sometimes irrelevant) topics pertinent to the mining and minerals industry. The controversial new Mining Charter, low metal prices, ECSA, state capture, the ANC leadership race, water restrictions in the Western Cape, and of course the weather, have all been fodder for conversations at various events. However, one topic that never fails to come up, and for obvious reasons, is women in the mining and minerals industry. As such, it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to celebrate the valuable contribution that women make in the mining and minerals sector. Similarly, it would be imprudent to overlook the challenges that women continuously face as they contribute to the country’s economy. For the above reasons, I would like to focus on this relevant and important subject this month.

The last 100 days in the office of the SAIMM Presidency

When presidents or leaders are elected, it is often customary to expect them to deliver a speech when they attain their first 100 days in office. Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated on 20 January 2009 as the 44th President of the United States, and gave a speech on his first 100 days in office on 29 April 2009. As is normal, his speech met with mixed reactions. Critics felt it was as vague as his campaign message, while supporters believed he was delivering on his campaign promises. It is during their first 100 days in office that presidents are scrutinized and watched particularly closely. Fortunately, in the SAIMM we have a rich tradition of leadership succession. Before one becomes President, one must have served at least two years on the SAIMM Council, followed by a year of co-option as an Office Bearer before successively becoming Junior Vice-President, Senior Vice-President, President-Elect, and President; After the term as President, one becomes Immediate Past- President and finally retires back onto Council as a Past President. There are therefore no campaign promises you need to make, as you become accustomed early on to the SAIMM’s strategic direction, which you then continue to drive during your one-year Presidential term. I therefore found it prudent to write on my last 100 days in office.

The modern mining professional – a mining CEOʼs perspective

I had the opportunity of attending the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa (AMMSA) on 31 March 2017. Mr Steve Phiri, the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) delivered the keynote address, which he titled ‘Towards a lasting legacy: the modern mine manager’. This insightful address resonated with my President’s Corner in the May edition of the Journal, in which I wrote about ‘the Mine of the Future’. Although his address spoke directly to mine managers, I sensed that it was also aimed at mining professionals within the ranks of the SAIMM. I will now draw some parallels between his message to modern mine managers and its implications for modern professionals in the SAIMM.

Mine of the Future — A mining CEOʼs perspective

The School of Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand held its 120th anniversary celebration on 23 March 2017. The keynote speaker at this momentous occasion was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gold Fields Limited, Mr Nick Holland. He spoke passionately about his vision on the Mine of the Future and indicated how Gold Fields was positioning itself for the future. The presentation was extremely insightful and well received by the audience, and I thought I should share with you some of the issues that were articulated.

Advancing international collaboration through the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA)

When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was delivering his mid-term budget speech in 2016, he made reference to the following Pedi quote which is relevant to one of SAIMM’s strategic initiatives: ‘Ditau tsahloka seboka di shitwa ke nare e hlotsa’ (translated into English as ‘Lions that fail to work as a team will struggle to bring down even a limping buffalo’). This quote cannot be any truer when one reflects on the need for collaboration for a common purpose. In the October 2015 edition of the SAIMM Journal our Immediate Past President, Rodney Jones, wrote about a 2011 inaugural meeting in London which ultimately resulted in the formation of the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA). I am happy to share with you a positive development – in February 2017 the SAIMM hosted the Annual GMPA Meeting in Cape Town, where we formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).