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The world is changing and miners in many instances need to adapt their practices and product offering just to stay relevant.

Nico Pienaar, director of surface mining industry association ASPASA (Aggregate and Sand Producers of South Africa), says years of tough trading conditions have reshaped the South African and global economies, and that tightening legislation surrounding health and safety, as well as environmental and sustainability issues, have put compliance and financial pressures on miners in recent times.

Added to this, commodity prices remain under pressure and certain mined goods have lost their sparkle on the local stage, while dwindling demand for others has reduced on global stages.

This has led to some confusion in certain quarters and led the association to prod its members to gaze into the future. Examining trends “We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but at least we can examine emerging trends and try to plan for the future. That’s why we need to start debating the future and our position in it, both globally and locally,” says Pienaar.

Although not exhaustive, the following list is a glimpse of the imminent future and it will pay for mine managers and owners to spend a few minutes thinking about each point and how it may impact their future trading:

  • Internet of things (IoT) – Imagine having all the information you need about your operations, markets and equipment at your fingertips. What would you be able to do differently?
  • Water scarcity – Many mining processes are partly, or fully, reliant on water in order to extract or process commodities. Can future water supply be guaranteed and what happens if not?
  • Energy sources – Eskom has showed us the light in the dark. How do energy shortages affect your operation and what can be done to mitigate risks or find viable alternative energy sources?
  • Social currency – In the past, the bottom line was all that mattered and profitability was seen to be the only measure of success. In a changing world, however, another currency is becoming equally important and is judged almost solely by the good that a company does in its geographical area and area of specialisation – social currency. Do you know the value of your mine’s social currency?
  • BBBEE – Sustainable or not, South Africa has a legacy and needs to redress the wrongs of the past. How can we invent a structure that is conductive for people of all walks of life without disempowering others?
  • Climate change – This may become one of the biggest challenges to mining in future as we’ll face more wet days, more dry days, more storms and stormy seas ahead. Climate change is reshaping our landscape and we need to do our bit to reverse damage to our environment. What changes do you foresee in your children’s’ lifetime?
  • Sustainability – This is required in every aspect of our business, from environmental and human resources to in-pit operations and supply chains. Every aspect of our business nowadays needs to be carefully measured to ensure a sustainable future. Will your mine still be here in 10 years?

“We need to start thinking about the future: what commodities will we need, how will we need to reshape our environment to survive, and how can we ensure that our mines will prosper and compete in years to come? We would like members’ feedback and, if need be, Aspasa can even hold workshops to help us plan for the future,” Nico concludes.

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