Sub-Sahara Mining & Industrial Journal
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Miners tackle hard conversations at Indaba – SRK

Mining continues to engage with the many difficult issues that affect the future of the industry and broader society, judging by the topics and turn-out at this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

“The event remains a forum for productive, if challenging, conversations,” said SRK Consulting (South Africa) managing director Andrew van Zyl. “Many of these issues – from climate change and decarbonisation to the just energy transition – can be controversial; what is important, though, is that all stakeholders feel that they can participate in robust dialogue to find sustainable solutions.”

Van Zyl acknowledged that many of the sector’s responses to the challenges of today and tomorrow were “works in progress” but emphasised how constructively it had adapted in recent decades. SRK Consulting, celebrating its 50th year in 2024, was proud to have contributed to this progress, he said.

“Part of the value of the Mining Indaba is that it brings together leaders and role players at both a strategic and technical level,” he said. “This allows not only for ideas to be shared and developed, but for experts to find practical strategies for implementing solutions.”

The rapid pace of global changes was making these forums for knowledge sharing even more important, he noted, as decision makers in mining needed to factor in fast moving variables. This related as much to the political evolution of African countries as it did to technological advancements in the energy sector.

“It is more vital than ever that, as players in mining, we regularly and frequently update our world views with quality information – so that we retain a relevant opinion on future demands and opportunities,” said Van Zyl. An example is the steady improvement being made in renewable power generation and storage. Whereas certain orebodies were in the past uneconomic due to their remoteness from a centralised power grid, the renewable energy technologies of today could now remove that hurdle.

He pointed out that trends related to the energy transition continued to make commodity prices volatile – complicating the task of valuing mineral resources and planning mining operations. Various early-stage technologies in electric battery manufacture, for instance, still competed for market acceptance, affecting demand for the minerals each technology embodied.

“As in so many spheres that affect the demand for mineral commodities, the mining sector does not get to decide the final value of what it mines,” he said. “Neither does it decide on what the global economy wants to make with its mineral production; these external trends introduce ongoing disruption to which the sector must constantly adapt.”

As an industry, he argued, mining will continue to drive improvements in fields such as safety, operating costs, employee diversity, social value and environmental impact – while navigating the broader socio-economic trends. Its resilience was well tested by the Covid-19 pandemic, when mining came to the rescue of many economies and communities.

In South Africa, for instance, the mines’ experience and infrastructure in respiratory illness helped protect employees and their communities – while its stand-out economic performance supported the national fiscus at a time when much of the private sector was in crisis.

“We need to appreciate the value of having honest discussions on what mining has to offer, what its considerable contribution has been, and what kind of future we are working towards,” said Van Zyl. “As a regular participant in the Mining Indaba, we see this forum as helping promote such conversations.”

 

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