Miners, ministers and other mining industry players are gathered at the Cape Town African Mining Indaba under a cloud of low commodity prices, rising mining costs and falling productivity – a risky environment that requires higher levels of technical certainty, according to SRK Consulting.
“Tough economic conditions are making it harder to fund new mines or even sustain existing operations, so explorers, developers and operators must ensure that the risk factors are well understood and mitigated,” said SRK chairman and corporate consultant, Roger Dixon.
With a 40-year reputation built initially on geotechnical engineering, SRK Consulting has grown into a global network of engineering consultants with in-house expertise ranging from exploration, mining and infrastructure engineering to water, tailings, and social and environmental impact assessment.
“Integrating the various technical disciplines is the only way to fully understand project risk,” he said.
He emphasised that this integration extended not only to technical factors but to the engagement of stakeholders like communities, governments and non-governmental organisations, from the earliest possible stage in the planning process.
Vassie Maharaj, director and principal consultant in stakeholder engagement at SRK, said that mining companies’ social licence to operate – their acceptance in the host country and amongst host communities – is now ranked within the top ten operational risks.
“So companies realise that this is a mission-critical area, but many don’t know how to build and sustain those relationships beyond just doing what is necessary to comply with regulations or to get the permits they require,” said Maharaj. “This poses real risks, as stakeholders are becoming impatient in their expectations of what benefits mining should bring, and are more assertive about their expectations and needs. With the rising tide of resource nationalism, host countries and communities hold greater power than ever to withhold their acceptance of mining activities.”
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