JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The South African mining industry has to modernise as a matter of urgency in order to halt job cuts in the industry, as well as to create more jobs, says Chamber of Mines modernisation and safety head Sietse van der Woude.
Delivering a keynote address at diversified engineering solutions company Siemens’ Mining Technology Day, on Wednesday, he outlined a “dismal” future for the domestic mining industry if it does not implement new technology or invest in modernisation and mechanisation.
Van der Woude pointed out that many mines are reaching advanced stages in their mine lives – going deeper and further away from shafts – which results in operations becoming increasingly expensive and more difficult.
He set out a scenario in which the domestic mining industry does nothing in terms of modernising, and noted that this would result in the loss of as many as 200 000 jobs in the next ten years.
Van der Woude stated that modernisation in the South African mining industry needed to be developed and implemented with a people-centric approach to preserve and enhance job opportunities and reverse any potential job losses. This people-centric approach was highly critical, taking into account that South Africa had about 15-million unemployed people – one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
However, the poor quality of education in South Africa was a growing impediment to implementing technology-driven solutions and also had a knock-on effect on modernisation. In this regard, he said, technology and modernisation in the South African mining industry needed to be developed and deployed, with the de-skilling of technology making it easier to use, at the same time that employees were upskilled.
He also noted that modernising South Africa’s mining industry would enable miners to access harder-to-reach orebodies, thereby unlocking the equivalent of 11 large gold mines and the equivalent of eight platinum mines.
Representatives from Siemens also presented the company’s comprehensive and integrated mining solutions during the technology day, with the aim being to showcase how these products can improve mines’ productivity.
In the context of the global mining industry currently facing major challenges while also having to meet mounting stakeholder expectations, remain competitive and subsequently become leaner, stronger and more innovative, digitalisation can play a crucial role by offering new possibilities to increase productivity and operational excellence.
Currently, technologies are available to assist mining companies increase digitalisation, with Siemens creating sustainable value for its customers in the mining industry by enhancing plant efficiency. Undertaking such steps can help the minerals sector tackle major challenges, such as productivity improvement.
Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall‘Omo noted the company’s pride in being directly involved in about 50% of the South African mining sector. “Our customers are using Siemens automation and drives technology to make mining safer, increase productivity and improve efficiency.”
She added that, in 2014, Siemens technology enabled R140-billion worth of value by helping its customers to move 175-million tons of material in key sectors, such as platinum, gold, diamonds, coal and iron-ore.