KEEN SKILLS The promotion of relevant skills in the mining equipment sector is fundamental to its sustainability
Local procurement will be crucial if local companies are to benefit from the increased gold mining activity and the resultant increase in mine-related purchases, stresses industry body Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (Memsa).
“We support the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan’s focus on local procurement as key to rebuilding the national economy and enabling further development,” says Memsa vice chairperson Christina Zondi.
She adds that such policies need efficient implementation mechanisms to bolster a reignition of the sector and, subsequently, the broader South African economy.
Additionally, Zondi stresses that for South African manufacturers to sustain and expand production while keeping pace with the rapid digital transition in mining and its associated supply chains, it is essential that suppliers have quality and relevant skills on hand.
“This starts with the strong development of language, as well as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills at primary and high school, which must continue into tertiary education, and occupational training which meets international standards.”
The local manufacture of capital equipment creates “a massive opportunity” for the creation of quality jobs in a resource-based economy, provided there are skilled employees available, adds Zondi.
Memsa conducted a high-level survey among its members, which indicated that suitably skilled artisans, particularly fitters, computer numerical control and boring mill operators, as well as mechanical engineers, are in high demand.
With the majority of Memsa members located in Gauteng, the organisation is encouraged by the provincial government’s stated focus on supporting the capital equipment manufacturing industry, specifically in terms of driving skills development and localisation through small businesses.
In the Pipeline
Zondi points out that Memsa is collaborating on selected long-term projects, including the feasibility study for the Mandela Mining Precinct test mine.
Several research projects are also moving closer to commercialisation, such as the Isidingo Drill Challenge, where two members of Memsa are involved.
The challenge was designed to encourage the design and prototyping of a new and innovative rock-drill concept for deep-level mining.
Memsa is also actively working with the Mandela Mining Precinct’s Real Time Information Management Systems programme to assist members in developing an understanding of the complex technologies and practices involved in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), specifically in mining and manufacture.
“The digital transition is a daunting, but creative and exciting space, which quickly highlights that partnerships and collaboration are needed to succeed,” Zondo says.
Further, Memsa has formed a 4IR Interest Group within the precinct, which meets regularly to share insights regarding developments and new technologies, and identify where and how collaboration on technologies, products and services will be most productive.
She adds that Memsa’s long-term goal is a South African mining supply chain that is “transformed, resilient and internationally competitive”, with a significant market share domestically and on the continent, forming part of an African manufacturing and mining value chain that extends into global markets.
“Significant transformation has already taken place among our members, and many of our products meet global standards, including technology leaders,” Zondi concludes.