Greg Vercellotti, executive director of Dariel Solutions
South Africa’s mining sector is the backbone of the country’s economy, making a significant contribution to economic activity, job creation and foreign exchange earnings
Most South African mining companies are viewed as key players in the global industry. This enormous privilege comes with enormous responsibility and so it’s no surprise then that the mining industry – its innovation abilities, its operations, its regulatory framework and its future viability – is viewed as critical focus areas by Government and stakeholders to ensure its positive impact on the country’s GDP rate and economy – remains fundamental.
With this being said, the Minister of Mineral Resource’s recent budget vote speech to Parliament presented a budget of U$96.21Billion for the 2011/12 financial year, an increase of US$37.2 million from the previous budget of US$92.3Million. Moreover, a key emphasis to emerge from the parliamentary budget presentation was the budget set aside for two key departments in this regard – namely the Council for Mineral Technology and Research (Mintek), as well as for the Mine Health and Safety Council which each received US$5.5 Million, and U$5Million respectively.
These figures areindicative that investment in South Africa’s mining industry is high up on the national agenda as to effect transformation, safety and sustainability as well as to achieve growth as mandated by the department of state.
Considering these budgets and the national focus that has been placed on industry sustainability and growth, it is essential that mining organisations take the necessary measures required to drive new projects, uplift equipment, continually improve implementations – whether technologically or operationally inclined – all to continue to drive new opportunities to the fore and remain a cornerstone of the economy.
Many mining houses are still beholden to legacy systems which often do not allow for the implementation and integration of newer innovative technologies. Due to the cost and time invested in such legacy systems, there is strong caution to simply retiring the technology which – while understandable – is problematic and will end up costing far more than an upgraded or newly implemented IT solution.
New and innovative technologies will increase effective control of access and present the sector with the prospect of more efficient ways to conduct daily operations, ultimately saving mining companies millions of rands. These customised technologies also help mining companies improve on corporate governance with respect to processes such as safety procedures, and keep these processes within the parameters of mining legislations, allowing the company to focus on the business aspects of what they do best – mining.
To determine what needs to be done to continue to achieve the best results for mining businesses and of course the sector, a technology audit is a crucial place to start. Through such an audit, a mining company can determine their specific technological needs that fit in with the way their business functions, and then upgrade technology and software accordingly.
Making the decision of when and how to go about implementing the required technology and equipment needed in the mining industry is a complex process involving both business and technical insight, but one that needs to be done. The potential for customised technology solutions to positively change the way in which mines operate is enormous and best yet, yields a positive return on investment from a financial, regulatory and operational framework perspective.