Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
VAN DER MERWE, J.N.. Future of the South African mining industry and the roles of the SAIMM and the Universities. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2011, vol.111, n.9, pp. 581-592. ISSN 0038-223X.
The current state of the South African mining industry is briefly reviewed from the point of view of an engineer not schooled in the finer details of predictive economics. Based on the assumption that current world exploration targets are indicative of which commodities the world will want in the future, it is concluded that the South African mining industry will continue to be viable and growing well into the future. South Africa holds the minerals the world wants and needs, and as long as the world has people, the demand for those, including gold, will continue to grow. There still is a growing demand for 'vanity commodities' and even the demand for platinum as a jewellery material displays significant growth. Mine safety still needs to improve, but significant improvement has already been made although the industry is not always acknowledged for the effort in this field. The safety target set for 2013 is within reach but will require sustained effort. The physical mining conditions for the main revenue earners, coal, platinum, and gold, will change substantially in the near future. Research in mining has declined alarmingly and it is urgently necessary for that to be revitalized to generate the knowledge that will be required. In order to streamline the transfer of knowledge to the mining engineers of the future, research needs to be conducted with the full involvement of the universities. It will also be necessary for the universities to continually review curricula to incorporate the latest knowledge and to embark on a campaign of knowledge transfer to the older generation of mining engineers. The mining industry is well supported by the universities, who have done their duty with regard to societal transformation, and the universities are in turn supported by the industry through vehicles like the METF. Industry is also strongly supported by a number of professional and vocational societies. The SAIMM will continue to play its vital role as the meeting point of the mining technical sciences, and will continue to disseminate knowledge via the Journal, schools, and conferences. In the future, it will review its modus operandi to support the needs of growing membership in the remote branches. It will enter the research arena in an appropriate manner and give effect to the developing integration of mining and society. The most important threat to the future of the mining industry is the recurrent mention of nationalization. While interaction between the mining industry and political and economic development of South Africa has always been characteristic, the current debate is emotional more than rational, and engineers are not well equipped to participate. This matter needs to be finalized before it becomes a popular force that politicians cannot control.
Keywords : wealth generation; mineral resources; mineral export; mineral production; mining skills; mining future; political interference.