Africa|Construction|Infrastructure|Mining|PROJECT|Project Management|Projects|Resources|Technology|Infrastructure|Operations
Africa|Construction|Infrastructure|Mining|PROJECT|Project Management|Projects|Resources|Technology|Infrastructure|Operations

Project management skillsets highlighted

26th January 2024

By: Nadine Ramdass

Creamer Media Writer


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Developing projects in the mining industry, and other industries, demands a unique and complex set of skills. These skills are often more specialised compared to those typically required for core mining operations. Possessing these advanced skillsets is crucial for facilitating growth within the mining sector.

“Large capital projects tend to be complex and have many moving parts, so things can go wrong very easily,” says project management consultancy ProjectLink director Werner Meyer.

Mining companies that are not skilled in project management, or which lack adequate experience in project management, are more susceptible to common pitfalls associated with the mining sector, he notes.

He illustrates several common pitfalls that exist in mining industry-related projects, which include the lack of a well-defined project scope, late scope changes and their consequences, as well as managing social unrest and community expectations.

A common issue in the mining industry is the execution of projects without a well- defined scope.

Meyer says that many projects start without a clear understanding of objectives and desired outcomes. This lack of clarity often results in poor execution owing to a lack of proper planning, which leads to time and cost overruns.

Another significant pitfall is late scope changes. Once the execution phase starts, mining companies often reassess their requirements, leading to significant alterations being brought forward.

While this may result in limited impact on software or digital application projects, projects that require construction may need significant adaptations if aspects related to the structure are changed at a late stage.

These changes can result in delays and cost escalations and can pose a major challenge for the project management process.

A unique challenge Meyer points out with mining industry-related projects is the impact of social unrest on mining projects, particularly in regions where mineral resources are abundant.

“Mining companies often have limited understanding of the expectations of the region where they conduct projects. Not understanding and managing that well is one of the significant reasons why projects are not successful, are delayed, cost more or have even completely stopped,” he elaborates.

Meyer points out that these pitfalls form part of the overarching issue of mining companies' limited understanding of formal project management.

Broader Industry Challenges
Further, these challenges are interconnected with broader issues such as unrealistic project timelines, skills drain, talent scarcity and limited capital availability.

Meyer points out that mining companies are under increasing pressure to complete projects in short timeframes. This is driven by the need to leverage new infrastructure or processes that can generate benefits for the company.

However, this rush often leads to compromises in the front-end loading (FEL) stage of the project.

FEL refers to a traditional methodology of project management that involves concept, prefeasibility and feasibility studies – crucial phases in project development, which can impact the project’s success at later stages.

To mitigate these challenges, Meyer explains that project managers and project owners should leverage newer methods and technology, such as artificial intelligence, in project management processes, particularly in the FEL phase.

This can assist in overcoming time constraints while ensuring key aspects of the FEL phase are not overlooked.

Another significant challenge is skills drain and talent scarcity. He points out that over the past decade, South Africa has experienced a significant brain drain with the departure of skilled professionals who are critical for mining projects.

As a result, Meyer says mining companies experience difficulties in assembling proficient teams for successful execution of projects. To address the issue of skills drain, Meyer asserts that project management companies need to invest in the development and management of talent.


Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer




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