The benefits of eLearning in the mining industry lie in its adaptability to fit mining companies’ budgets and needs, and in allowing this sector to keep up with an ever-growing list of requirements from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) – with quicker turnaround times.

Michael Hanly, managing director of New Leaf Technologies explains that an eLearning system streamlines crucial components but also keeps track of miners’ training adherence to strict health and safety (SHEQ) training requirements.

The local mining sector employs an estimated 460 000 people, yet 86% of these employees have very little formal education. This is where eLearning can play a huge role in elevating skills and making SHEQ far more accessible and manageable.

Another positive element of eLearning is that companies no longer having to fly in trainers, while it also reduces the number of off-the-job time employees needed for training. “eLearning now gives mining companies the opportunity to ensure that course material is engaging and easily absorbed through captivating multimedia – combining words and graphics, and ensuring these are memorable and stimulating,” Hanly says. 

Covid-19 impact

Mining is one of the industries that have seen a slump since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and negatively impacted the economy. The Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) notes that mining provides the single greatest part of South Africa’s export revenues and employs more people than any other comparable sector directly and indirectly.

According to Statistics South Africa, a 1.5% growth for South Africa’s economy was due to eight out of ten industries experiencing a slight increase in revenue. South Africa’s overall economic activity for the entire year decreased by 7.0% in 2020 compared to the figures for 2019. The South African Reserve Bank notes this as the largest annual fall in economic activity the country has seen since 1946.

Decline in commodity prices

Commodities prices declined for South Africa’s biggest minerals – gold, platinum and coal. The World Bank indicates that gold prices depreciated globally during the period from October to December 2020 from US$ 1 875 to US$ 1 858 per troy ounce (toz). Although seemingly not drastic, this weakening has a major effect on the industry both worldwide and locally in terms of tons sold. Coal prices also dropped, as the demand for power decreased due to Covid-19, and the surge in renewable energy continued.

The mining industry in South Africa has to contend with ongoing uncertainty due to the pandemic and budgets have been cut. However, there are also current opportunities for the mining sector. One of these lies in adopting digitised systems for the documentation of safety management systems to meet safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) standards. When commenting on the top 10 business risks facing mining and metals in 2021, the global accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) noted that there were indications of growing digital confidence among miners, and that digital systems are becoming ‘business as usual’ at large mining outfits.

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