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Firm discusses tech advancements

An image depicting a smiling man, Mzila Mthenjane, folding his arms

MZILA MTHENJANE Exxaro has implemented technology that has connected the value chain of the business in terms of exploration, mining, processing and logistics

24th March 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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Exhibiting as an associate sponsor at this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba – held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last month – minerals mining company Exxaro participated in various panel discussions.

“Our stand at the Indaba conveyed Exxaro's ideas in terms of its strategy around diversification into minerals that will be required for a low-carbon future. It also displayed our energy investments in renewables and, more importantly, the sustaining business of the coal operations,” says Exxaro executive head of stakeholder affairs Mzila Mthenjane.

The company highlighted the relevance of technology and automation for African mining operations, with Mthenjane participating in the Technology Adoption and the Mining Community: Friend or Foe panel.

The panel highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of adopting technology for mining operations, but Mthenjane stresses that technology is critical for business sustainability and competitiveness.

“We concluded that technology is, indeed, a ‘friend’ in that it results in social progress.”

He adds that adopting technology requires mining staff to be reskilled, whereby skills learnt for the workplace will, consequently, positively impact on employees’ personal lives more generally.

Exxaro has implemented technology that has connected the value chain of the business in terms of exploration, mining, processing and logistics, which has reduced redundancies by connecting different aspects of its business operations.

Moreover, during the Covid-19 lockdown, Exxaro employees were able to adopt hybrid work methods, as the company had invested capital in upgrading its technological resources.

“Expenditure has gone into digitalising operations in as far as being able to visualise and then connect the various elements of our value chain, meaning that operations could be managed remotely. While we had fewer people at the operations, we could still achieve full production,” says Mthenjane.

He also cites the example of mining company Anglo Platinum’s hydrogen truck, launched last year, which illustrates how technology can be adopted throughout the mining value chain and improve safety.

One disadvantage of adopting technology, however, is its potential impact on employment opportunities.

Hence, he highlights the importance of good leadership in facilitating the adoption of technology to allow for the adequate implementation of reskilling initiatives or exploring new opportunities that are equally viable as alternatives for employees negatively affected by the change.

ESG

Exxaro also participated in discussions regarding the importance of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives, which Mthenjane says highlighted advancements made in the South African mining industry with regard to community engagement and stakeholder management.

He enthuses that Exxaro has improved its rating on the FTSE Russell Index from 3.8 to 4, owing to its various ESG initiatives.

For example, Exxaro embarked on a programme to educate young people in 2020 on how to use Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, with over 400 young people having participated.

Mthenjane says the programme demonstrated the importance of engaging with surrounding communities and understanding what their needs are regarding technology.

Moreover, Exxaro is also emphasising human rights and will be profiling its human rights policy on March 21 ­– Human Rights Day – this year.

The company is aligning its business practices with the ten United Nations Global Compact principles, which includes the implementation of environment-friendly technologies.

“We will continue improving our ESG performance as a reflection of our efforts rather than just mere communication. Hence, we will be sharing our human rights policy that will contribute to further improvements on our ESG index score in the first half of 2023,” Mthenjane concludes.

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Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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