Mandela Mining Precinct celebrates five-year anniversary

4th December 2023 By: Darren Parker - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Mandela Mining Precinct celebrates five-year anniversary

Photo by: Creamer Media's Donna Slater

The public-private partnership Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) celebrated five years of mining research, development,and innovation (RDI) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) International Convention Centre, in Pretoria, on November 9.

The event, attended by government, science councils, academia, other collaborators and industry representatives, highlighted the impact of the entity.

Co-hosted by the CSIR and the Minerals Council South Africa, the MMP was celebrated for its role in revitalising mining RDI in South Africa and ensuring the industry's sustainability.

Speaking at the event, MMP director Julie Courtnage acknowledged those who lost their lives in the mining industry over the past year and traced the MMP’s journey from its establishment in 2015.

She underscored the importance of the MMP's growth, not just in technological advancements but also in addressing the social and job impacts of its work.

“Trees do what they do best: quietly and without fanfare, they grow. And that is the path of the MMP: growth,” she said, while highlighting the MMP's goal of fostering long-term viability in the sector through catalysing high-quality collaborative research.

The event included a showcase of research outputs from MMP research collaborators, including messages of support from stakeholders such as co-hosts of the initiative, the Department of Science and Innovation, organised labour and the South African Mining Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation (Samerdi) university research centres.

CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini, who also spoke at the event, emphasised three key aspects crucial for the South African mining sector.

The first was the accelerated adoption of new technologies for improved sector performance, such as energy technologies, augmented reality, sensor systems, and data analytics.

The second aspect he emphasised was capitalising on the catalytic role of mining to spur development in adjacent industries, contributing to the diversification of the South African manufacturing sector.

Third, Dlamini highlighted reducing the environmental, health and social impact of mining through initiatives such as the Impact Catalyst, focusing on creating socio-economic opportunities for communities in mining towns.

Dlamini called for increased efforts in innovation and investment, expressing confidence in the MMP's ability to make a substantial impact.

“My view is that as a country we need an equivalent of the MMP for all sectors in the South African economy – where government, research institutions, labour, and private sector work together to improve the performance of the sector,” he said.

Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane added his voice, stressing the industry's commitment to delivering a modern, safe, healthy and inclusive mining sector.

“We must consider the impact of mining and the positive outcomes it can have, while we work hard to minimise what has been our tarnished legacy for employees, communities, society at large and the environment. [One] way to do this is through the Samerdi strategy,” he said.

The MMP facilitates the implementation of the Samerdi strategy.

Department of Science and Innovation research development and support deputy director-general Imraan Patel reflected on the early days of the MMP and reaffirmed government’s support for the precinct, while emphasising the need for similar collaborative initiatives across various sectors in the South African economy.

“Despite the current fiscally constrained climate, we must have a growth mindset and focus on growing the MMP partnerships. The mining equipment sub-sector was an important aspect of the Samerdi strategy at the Mining Phakisa, and we need to retain and expand this focus. As we look to the future, we will continue to live a culture of creativity, learning, growth and exploration while we nurture our woodlands of knowledge and discovery, knowing that every branch, every leaf, and collaborator contributes to the whole,” Courtnage said.