Refurbished Wits innovation bridge marks multimillion-rand Sibanye-Stillwater sponsorship

The refurbished Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation Bridge

The refurbished Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation Bridge

13th July 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The refurbished and rebranded Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation Bridge, which links the east and west campuses of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), marks a further sponsorship from diversified mining company Sibanye-Stillwater.

“This investment will be instrumental in assisting postgraduate students and researchers, who are the academic and business leaders of the future, to conduct faculty projects that are expected to have a positive societal impact,” Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said at the unveiling of the refurbished bridge on July 12.

The additional financial commitment from Sibanye will be used for study bursaries, learnerships within its mining operations, graduate internship programmes and staff development within the Wits Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE).

Sibanye has contributed R68.5-million in funding to the university since 2014, with a further R5.5-million committed for 2023 and R50-million in technical equipment donated to the institution.

“The Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation Bridge signifies an enduring investment in human capital and engineering. It serves as a gateway to the future and fostering shared value for the greater good,” said Wits principal and vice-chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi.

“Additionally, the bridge speaks to unifying Wits and Sibanye, higher education and the private sector to create a shared vision and talent pipeline that will benefit our economy and our society,” he added.

Further, Sibanye was intimately involved in the development of, and continues to support, the Wits DigiMine, which is a digital mining laboratory and a partnership between Sibanye and the Wits Mining Institute, highlighted Froneman.

The DigiMine's primary objective is to complete postgraduate fundamental and applied research into digital technologies that will enable the mine of the future.

“The flow of talent and research and development outcomes from DigiMine is instrumental for Sibanye to realise our ambitions of being a digital-first organisation that harnesses the digital revolution to improve our business performance and create a better environment for our people to thrive.

“The Sibanye-Wits partnership symbolises the fusion of industry and academia, as we join forces to shape the future of mining and create a lasting positive impact on our planet. It is a commitment to the shared values of excellence, integrity and collaboration,” he added.

“As a result of the DigiMine partnership, we are proud that 57 undergraduate, ten PhD and 27 MSc students have graduated through our support. Currently, there are four PhD and six MSc students in the process of completing their studies.”

During the past decade, Sibanye has enabled 585 students to study at Wits by providing bursaries and allowances amounting to R19.4-million, he pointed out.

“Sibanye's support for staff development in the FEBE has revolutionised the digital landscape in mining engineering,” noted Vilakazi.

“The flow of talent and research from the School of Mining Engineering, the Wits Mining Institute and the Sibanye-Stillwater DigiMine, among others, has exceeded industry expectations. Faculty and professional staff now operate in an environment that nurtures academic excellence, producing exceptional students who meet and surpass industry requirements,” he emphasised.

Wits and Sibanye have walked the research and development path together. These donations and investments have not only contributed to the world-class infrastructure and academic facilities at Wits, but also have enabled many learners from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in mining and engineering, said Wits FEBE dean Professor Thokozani Majozi.

“This ensures that academia maintains a pipeline of academically excellent researchers, postdoctoral academics, and professionals who are fit for purpose in the industry,” he highlighted.

In the ever-evolving world, where the boundaries of innovation and progress are continually pushed, Sibanye is committed to staying at the forefront of our industry, driving innovation, and fostering sustainable practices, said Froneman.

“We are also mindful of the business imperative to maintain a strong pipeline of young and diverse talent. The provision of quality tertiary education is a vital requirement if we are to sustain the mining industry and grow the economy. Education is also central to our endeavour to drive a long-lasting and positive impact in the development and growth of our communities,” he said.

Innovation in mining represents a profound shift and departure from conventional practices towards a greener, more responsible, and technologically advanced industry. It is an opportunity to redefine mining as a force for positive change, promoting economic growth while minimising environmental impact, noted Vilakazi.

“Mining has long been associated with resource extraction and use. However, we find ourselves at a critical juncture where traditional mining practices are no longer sustainable or efficient. Our planet faces unprecedented challenges, from climate change to resource scarcity.

“To secure a prosperous and sustainable future, we must adapt and innovate. Making mining safer is part of our shared agenda and we look forward to working with Sibanye in this area,” he added.

Wits plays a pivotal role in nurturing innovation by investing in cutting-edge research, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and providing the necessary training and education to prepare the next generation of mining professionals. Sibanye's support paves the way for future generations to thrive in this pursuit.

“Innovation fuels our progress, and it is our duty to cultivate a collaborative space that transcends disciplines and sectors. Our knowledge must drive the advancement of our community, city, country, continent and the world by yielding tangible and intangible benefits for humanity,” Vilakazi said.

Meanwhile, Froneman said Sibanye would continue to partner with Wits to bring together two pillars of excellence, namely the wealth of experience and expertise within the company, and the "cutting-edge knowledge and research capabilities of this renowned academic institution".

“We join forces to shape the future of mining and create a lasting positive impact on our planet. It is a commitment to the shared values of excellence, integrity and collaboration. We will generate ideas, shape policies and develop technologies that pave the way for a sustainable future,” he concluded.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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