Surface mining industry association, ASPASA, is embracing the new normal brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic as it develops new strategies to serve its members and the larger mining community.

Association director, Nico Pienaar, says solutions are required on an almost daily basis just to be able to keep the wheels of the economy grinding and that the surface mining industry is no different. “Our way of doing business has fundamentally changed and it is forcing us to quickly find new ways of doing things, to adapt or face the real possibility of becoming irrelevant.

“A good example is keeping the lines of communication open in crisis times and how the industry quickly adapted to online means of communication such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other electronic platforms during the initial stages of lockdown in order to maintain two-way communications and ensure strategies were put in place to combat the pandemic.”

Lean operation

He says the association has taken the necessary step of disposing of its large office with training facilities and moved to smaller office premises, while moving its training and workshop initiatives online. Rather than physical meeting these will be done via various live streaming services, as well as through videos and other media available on YouTube and its own website.

Conferences and seminars will continue to be held in the same way and the medium opens the doors for experts and other role-players in the industry to provide much needed advice, training and guided workshops to ASPASA members. Simultaneously, costs saved as a result of the move to smaller offices will be redeployed to these new initiatives.

While the methods of delivery might be very different this time around, it is our aim to move the benchmark and improve all our services during these tough times. That means that we will still forge ahead with our usual services such as health and safety, environmental and other audits in line with ASPASA membership requirements.

Technical focus

Where relevant we can even expand our audit services to the non-mining side of the business. (Cement, lime, road construction, ready-mix, brick businesses can also be audited). We will also be revising our environmental audits and modernising it in line with new business methods and new thinking on environmental issues. This is a big undertaking and aims to rebuild the entire environmental auditing policy to current standards.

Pienaar adds that there will also be a keen focus on technical, quality and laboratory-related challenges that need to be overcome in order to move the industry to a quality and solution-driven industry. A fully fledged and well-developed audit process has been developed and tested in the industry by ASPASA and deeply knowledgeable individuals and is ready to be rolled-out to the industry.

Engineering will also receive much needed attention as the plants, the structures and machinery are crucial to the production side of the business. Blasting will also be top of the agenda as legislation gets opened to new interpretations that need to be noted by members. Transport and PDS systems will also be under the spotlight.

Joining hands

“During 2021 we will also reach out to related industry bodies and Government departments in the mining and construction sector in order to promote closer ties and shared macro-strategies. We will also register with the ECSA and participate in the Young Leaders initiative in order to ensure we attract the right skills to our industry in future.

“We will continue to fight for the rights of our members and actively engage legislators and other obstacle in order to promote fair trade and ensure the profitability of our industry. The fight will also with legal battles against SARS over the fair payment of royalties and other battles as they arise.

“These are just some of the initiatives we have planned for the year ahead and the rest will be covered through our usual media channels,” Pienaar concludes.

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