Changes needed in the mining sector - Shabangu

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pretoria - As South Africa looked forward to the second century of modern mining, things would need to be done differently from the previous century, says Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.

Speaking at the launch of the Wits Mining Research Institute (WMRI) on Thursday, the minister said it was institutions such as the WMRI that would ensure this progress.

"...this initiative by Wits and others like it will be the difference between lip service and meaningful transformation and sustainable development in our industry," Shabangu added.

Central to achieving the vision of transformation and sustainable development, was a vibrant and dynamic research and development sector, and a culture of innovation and skills development.

It was not only higher levels of research and development, and skills development initiatives that were needed, but also greater integration, coordination and strategic direction of these efforts in order to support the nation's mineral development aims, the minister said.

With regards to transformation in the mining industry, Shabangu said part of the work of this new institution must be to ensure that historically disadvantaged South Africans were affirmed in the industry and empowered to play a meaningful role in its development.

The institute could also play a role in health and safety in the mining industry.

"It is my sincere hope that this Institute will engage with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and stakeholders including the Mine Health and Safety Council on the R&D and innovation agenda in health and safety.

"Examples of programmes that would be bolstered by collaboration are the campaigns for development of personal protective equipment suitable for women in mining and the agreed establishment of a Centre of Excellence for mine health and safety," she added.

The minister noted that central to sustainable development of the mining sector was the issue of environmental impact management and rehabilitation.

She was hopeful that a mining research institute would become involved in research and innovation in these areas.

With regards to skills, Shabangu noted that technological advancements had brought about changes in the skills required of people in the industry and would continue to drive skills needs into the medium- to longer-term future.

As the sector continued to grow in this context, the demand for skills was expected to rise commensurately and more artisans, mining engineers, metallurgists, chemical engineers, geologists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, mine surveyors, and so on would be needed.

"This institution should play a major role in driving skills development in this regard. This will best be accomplished through the development of partnerships with institutions at the forefront of these efforts...

"This new institute should create a platform to support the DMR as the industry regulator in a wide variety of skills and research needs, such as the training of mining inspectors, and environmental officers etc," she said.

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