Programme Director;

Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Gwede Mantashe;

President of the Minerals Council South Africa, Mr Mxolisi Mgojo;

Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Council South Africa, Mr Roger Baxter;

Chairperson of the Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa, Mr Freddy Mugeri;

Board members of the Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa;

Presidents and general secretaries of organised labour, including the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, Solidarity and the UASA;

Executives from various mines and mining capital equipment companies;

Chairperson of the Board of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Prof. Thokozani Majozi;

Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr Thulani Dlamini;

Chief executive officers from the various science councils;

Vice-chancellors of the Universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, South Africa and the Witwatersrand;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:

 

First, I would like to thank the teams from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Department of Mineral Resources, the Presidency, the Minerals Council South Africa and the Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA), who worked very hard to make this project a reality.  Government and the mining industry gathered here to launch this precinct under the theme "Advancing the South African mining cluster", we are setting an example, showing that working together we can place our country and our people on a higher developmental trajectory.

 

The precinct, as you know, is named after our icon Tata Madiba, whose centenary we are celebrating this year, together with that of Mama Albertina Sisulu. Harnessing science and technology to create a more humane working environment in the mining sector is an important milestone in honouring the legacies of our two icons.  It is a great honour for former President Mandela's name to be associated with this facility, which is aimed at breathing new life into an industry that has, in a large part, shaped the history of this country.

 

The modernisation of mining, which includes mechanisation and automation, is said to bring opportunities that outweigh the projected challenges, and is therefore deemed necessary. This conversion will broadly contribute towards the survival of the South African mining industry through the mining of lower grade ores, as well as deeper resources, thereby extending the lives of mines.  In addition, the adoption of technological developments and advancements will contribute towards improved health and safety, and facilitate the sector's migration from dangerous, labour-intensive platforms to the government's goal of zero-harm. 

 

Finding solutions to problems affecting our country and continent requires collaborative research at a national and regional scale. Collaboration and partnerships between government and industry represent key opportunities for development aligned to national goals and strategies.  Moreover, it is important to ensure that research is relevant and aligned to user requirements, as well as to espouse sustainable human development.

 

The Mandela Mining Precinct and the activities associated with it represent a new dawn for collaboration in mining research, development and innovation, as all stakeholders, including government, mining companies, local mining equipment manufacturers and the research community, acknowledge the need for a coherent, collaborative approach to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.  It is hoped that this partnership will stimulate the transformation of South Africa's comparative advantage in the minerals sector into a competitive one.

 

Since the Mining Phakisa started in 2015, there has been considerable progress with government and industry working together in this sector.  A good partnership between the Department of Science and Technology and the Minerals Council South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) has developed.  Apart from pursuing a research agenda defined by the mining industry, this partnership is also helping us as a country to increase our gross expenditure on research and development as a percentage of gross domestic product, moving us closer to attaining our target of 1,5%, as outlined in the draft White Paper we launched on Monday.

 

This collaborative work is guided by the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) Strategy, implemented by the CSIR, which focuses on the following research themes:

  • The longevity of current mines.
  • Mechanised drilling and blasting.
  • 24/7 non-explosive rock-breaking.
  • Advanced orebody knowledge.
  • Real-time information management systems.
  • The successful applications of technology, centred on people. 

 

The mines of the future will necessitate a change from traditional mining skills to skills required in a range of areas, including mining-related information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence and data-driven mining.  This partnership between government and industry ought to position itself to bring together young South Africans of all races for mines of the future, and to produce a new generation of researchers, better equipped to innovate and develop technological solutions.  Furthermore, the opportunities presented by the modernisation of mining and technological advancements and breakthroughs can only be fully realised by attracting the next generation to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

Apart from the changes in skill sets and levels that will be required for the mines of the future, the sector needs to be transformed in terms of gender and race.  It is anticipated that the SAMERDI Strategy will be used to address this, by increasing the number of women and black researchers and engineers.  In addition, it is hoped that the RDI networks with universities will expand to include historically disadvantaged universities, and thereby leverage mining RDI investments to build their capability and capacity.

 

The DST is committed to developing the mining component of the national system of innovation, and will continue to cultivate an enabling environment and provide resources for science, technology and innovation in support of the development of South Africa.  We are open to collaboration and partnerships in order to achieve this.

 

I thank you.