The launch of the South African Minerals to Metals Research Institute (Sammri) will increase the local mining industry’s research and development (R&D) capacity, which will, hopefully, place the mining industry back in the spotlight, reports Department of Science and Technology deputy director-general for socioeconomic partnerships Marjorie Pyoos.
At the launch, Sammri steering committee chairperson Johan Theron pointed out that South Africa was still one of the most well-endowed countries in the world. However, all of South Africa’s R&D was conducted outside the country.
“The mining industry contributes 20% towards the country’s gross domestic product, yet it is seen as a sunset industry. The question that needs to be asked is how one can unlock potential within the industry. Increasing the capacity of the R&D sector is the only way that this can be done. In 2008/9, South Africa spent a paltry R578-million on R&D, whereas Australia spent a massive A$4,3-billion during the same period,” says Pyoos.
The benefits of Sammri will also be far reaching, reports University of Cape Town Centre for Mineral Research’s Professor Cyril O’Connor, who was instrumental in the establishment of Sammri.
He reports that, although South Africa has larger reserves than most countries in the world, it fails to produce cutting-edge technology on the scale of smaller mining industries, such as in Australia.
“Sammri will help bring South Africa to the forefront of mining R&D. It will also help the country to maintain its global competitiveness and address a new set of challenges, such as water, environment and energy,” says O‘Connor.
More importantly, he adds, Sammri will build on South Africa’s high-end skills base, which will address the current skills crisis affecting many countries globally.
Theron reports that five companies have committed their support for Sammri by becoming founder companies. Together with the Department of Science and Technology, Anglo American, Impala Platinum, Lonmin, Exxaro and AngloGold Ashanti will each contribute R100 000 a year over two years to facilitate the running of Sammri.