The surface mining association, Aspasa, raised awareness about skills shortages in the local opencast mining and quarrying profession through a presentation delivered to an international audience of peers at the Global Aggregates Information Network (Gain) conference, in Spain, last month.
Skills shortages are a major factor impeding the industry and need to be addressed, emphasises Aspasa director Nico Pienaar. “Through ongoing communication with members, industry associations can play an important role in identifying problem areas and provide workshops or short courses to alleviate the problem.”
Gain focuses on the topics raised by the members of quarrying and surface mining industry associations worldwide, and discusses solutions and best practices accordingly. Through sharing South Africa’s challenges regarding skills development in the industry, Aspasa hopes that further discussions can be focused on the issue and shared solutions sought.
Further, Aspasa has embarked on a plan to provide comprehensive, fully accredited qualifications management in partnership with professional training company Prisma Training Solutions. “Aspasa is already developing curricula to be used for these purposes,” enthuses Pienaar.
However, the challenge is to implement the training. Companies in the various aggregate and quarrying/surface mining industries have to pay levies to the various sector education and training authorities (Setas) so that workers can be trained, however, not enough training is taking place. “Training is costly for companies and they are lax to participate,” he points out.
Global Challenge, Local Requirements
Although the lack of skills development is a global problem, South Africa has its unique challenges and requirements. All training needs to be done in line with the Skills Development Act, and according to the South African Qualifications Authority standards, to be successful. It may also tap the resources of the Setas to derive funding and methodologies.
Further, coursework also needs to address the needs of the Mining Qualifications Authority to ensure competence in the specific area of mining. The coursework also has to include social and labour plans, sectoral skills plans and broad-based black economic-empowerment requirements of the industry to build and develop individuals in pursuit of a career path in quarry management.
In the 2016/17 financial year, the Department of Mineral Resources, which regulates the mining and quarrying industries, found that the citations given out after accidents cited a lack of leadership as the cause of an accident or incident.
“Supervision and leadership skills are, therefore, urgently needed in the local quarrying industry,” Pienaar declares.
Aspasa has shared its experiences with the global quarrying industry, but will continue to develop its own work. “We will welcome input from our global partners and local members. “The more input we have, the better it is for the development of a course that is relevant locally and abroad,” he concludes.