On the 16th of August 2018 Alastair Macfarlane was inducted as the SAIMM President for 2018/2019. The students and members attending the AGM welcomed him as president with applause. We look forward to the impact that Alastair Macfarlane will make during his year in office.
Towards the future: African Mining Vision, Mining Phakisa and the SAIMM
Recent winds of political change blowing through the African continent have created the hope of a new dawn for the mining industry, and for renewed impetus to support the African Mining Vision.
South Africa finds itself well positioned to support the African Mining Vision, and the Mining Phakisa process has laid a solid foundation for the country to play a key role in the attainment of the Vision. Furthermore, the renewed focus on the National Development Plan has increased the need for the mining industry in South Africa to reinvigorate itself and to become a key contributor to gross domestic product once again.
The Phakisa outcomes have resulted in renewed support for research and development within the mining industry, as well as support for the local manufacture of mining equipment, for domestic use and for export to the rest of the continent. Further emphasis is being placed on stimulating alternative businesses near mining communities through the establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises.
In the area of research and development, the recent launch of the Mandela Mining Precinct bears testimony to these renewed efforts by the State, industry, and other stakeholders in developing a vision for Mining 2030.
All of these thrusts are based on the principles of collaboration, open innovation, transparency, and transformation. None of them will be achievable without capacity-building, capability creation, and development.
It is within this spirit of collaboration and journey of renewal that the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy must finds its place and define the supportive role that it can play.
I have been deeply involved in the Phakisa process, and continue to be involved in the research and development initiatives, as well as working with transformation, empowerment, and health and safety issues in the industry.
This Address will therefore unpack the vision and objectives of the African Mining Vision, in terms of how the Mining Phakisa in South Africa aligns to it, and how the Institute can and should play a supportive role in the Mining 2030 vision. The SAIMM, being a regional, Southern African institute, can play a pivotal role in supporting skills upliftment, gender equality in the industry, transformation and empowerment, research and development, and social upliftment in mining-based communities.
Alastair was born in rural southwest England, near Plymouth, in 1951. He attended primary and high school in Plymouth, and was a person who had constant interest in everything around him, whether natural history, geology, or just anything happening. Through this, he developed an interest in both the mining geology and industrial archaeology of the historical Cornish and Devon mining industries, and it was this interest that encouraged him to study mining engineering at Camborne School of Mines, in 1970.
After graduating from Camborne, he was recruited by Anglo American, and travelled to South Africa in October 1973. Being inducted into Western Deep Levels in those days as a young engelsman was a deep shock to the system, but one which he survived. Starting as a mining graduate, he moved through the ranks at Western Deeps, up to the position of Section Manager. By 1981, he was managing the largest section on Western Deep Levels, with eight mine overseers reporting to him. Most of his time was spent in production, with a brief spell researching and implementing a novel high-strength backfill system at the mine. This was to become the subject of his MSc dissertation in 1982. It was also while he was at Western Deep Levels that he married Diane, in 1982.
He had a short secondment to Anglo’s gold operation in Brazil, at Morho Velho, and was then transferred to Anglo’s Cleveland Potash Boulby Mine in Yorkshire in England, in 1987, also on secondment, as Deputy Mining Manager/Technical Services Manager. He has many fond memories of working at Boulby, the most bizarre of which is contract negotiations with a customer in Finland, conducted in the nude in a sauna. That’s the way the Finnish do things.
1987 to 1989 were very troublesome years for South Africa, and he and Diane anguished over whether to return, when Anglo asked them to do so. Alastair listened intently to a speech given by F.W. De Klerk in 1989, and his interpretation of that speech convinced him that something serious was going to happen in South Africa, and it was time to return, to be part of what was to come.
He returned in 1989 to Western Holdings Mine in the Free State, as Assistant Manager: Production, at a time of great
challenges in the Free State goldfields. In 1990, a tornado ravished Welkom, and not only caused catastrophic damage to the mine and hardship for its people living in the town, but also resulted in severe civil unrest. Dealing with these issues took more skills than a traditional mining engineering is trained to possess, and he recalls standing with the General Manager at 2 am and asking ‘so what do we do now?’
In 1991, he was moved back to Western Deep Levels, to Mponeng, where he worked as Assistant Manager Production, and also oversaw the sinking of the subshafts. While there, he implemented a deep organizational development process, which was groundbreaking in that it involved all employees and organized labour. He acted as the Mine Manger on many occasions, and was moved on promotion to Vaal Reefs in 1996.
At Vaal Reefs, after a stint as Technical Services Manager, he took over the Moab project as Mine Manager. This position required a complete rehash of the feasibility study as well as a significant redesign of the mine, all done while sinking and development of the mine was in progress.
He moved from Vaal Reefs in 1999 to AngloGold Head Office, after having been intimately involved in the formation of both AngloGold and African Rainbow Minerals. At the corporate office he became the Consultant Mineral Resource Management, where his responsibility was the development of MRM across AngloGold’s global operations. He did this for two years, until a company restructuring led to him being seconded to Wits University Mining School as a Senior Lecturer. In this position he lectured undergraduate students in financial valuation, massive mining methods, and open pit mining – a course which he developed. He also developed the complete Certificate Programme in Mineral Resource management, a programme aimed at industry practitioners and technicians, and which is still highly in demand today. He lectured up to five postgraduate courses annually in MRM subjects and financial valuation specialization topics.
In 2002 he decided to move to the University on a full-time basis. He also embarked on consultancy work, having established Macsim Mining Consultancy in 2001.
The consultancy work kept him so busy that he left the University in 2008, becoming a visiting lecturer for postgraduate studies while consulting to many mining companies in South Africa, Tanzania, Australia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, the DRC, Zambia, and Lesotho.
In 2002, he worked with a Northern Cape-based group to found a Broad-Based Black Empowerment Company called Sebilo Resources. The aim was to create a truly locally owned and empowered company that would be reflective of the principles and intent of the minerals policy of South Africa and its Act.
Although started with no capital, Sebilo has grown to become a successful company with a strong balance sheet and global
customer reputation as a mining and marketing entity, producing medium-grade manganese. During these years he worked as the Technical Director, a position from which he is now exiting so that the company will be 100% black-owned and managed.
In 2015, Alastair was asked by the Chamber of Mines to assist in preparation for the Mining Phakisa, which was held in November of that year. He participated in this multi-stakeholder event, which ended in agreement to reinvigorate mining research and development for the sustainability of the industry. This has involved forming partnerships with state departments such as the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Trade and Industry, the DMR, and National Treasury, with industry through the Chamber, and with academic Institutions and organized labour. Alastair has continued working on behalf of the Chamber in this initiative, working as Co-Director at the Mandela Mining Precinct, a position which he still holds. The Precinct, which was opened on 4 May 2018, is situated at the old COMRO facility, and is managed jointly by the Chamber and the CSIR. Alastair is very proud to have been associated with this landmark collaborative initiative and development.
Alastair has served for many years on the Council of the Association of Mine Managers (AMMSA), as well as on the Council of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. This was over two periods, initially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and then after a brief period of absence, again since 2007.
During these times, he formed both the South African Mineral Asset Valuation (SAMVAL) Committee, which drafted the SAMVAL Code, and the International Mineral Valuation Committee, which has developed the IMVAL template. He has also served on the Technical Programme Committee for many years, and has organized many conferences. He has written many papers for the SAIMM and AMMSA.
He is an Honorary Life Fellow of the SAIMM, and has served on Council for the last 11 years.
Alastair has been married to Diane for 36 years and they are blessed with four children, these being Bruce, Christopher, Catherine, and Stevie, an adoptee who has been with them since he was six months old and who is now seven.
Catherine and Oscar recently blessed Alastair and Diane with their first granddaughter, Seanna.
Alastair enjoys the fine arts, and loves impressionist art, and classical music from the same era. He also enjoys a round of golf and a braai with friends and family, and wishes his eyes were still good enough to have a game of cricket, a game he played at Premier league level for many years, and which he played with a development team that he managed until he was over 50.
Alastair is passionate about the future of South Africa and all its people. His ambitions are to further embrace transformation and the development of people, for the good of all. He looks forward to the day when no conversations raise any issue of black or white, and that we are all equally excited about the future of this great country.
He realizes that he enjoyed a privileged position in the industry during the years of apartheid, and while on the one hand being genuinely apologetic for that, hopes that his efforts to change the industry for all, and his enduring support for transformation and development, are sufficient for him to be recognized for his part in supporting the change to democracy, and his efforts in supporting and pursuing Madiba’s dream.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.