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Hopeful signs from Mining Indaba

Roger Dixon, corporate consultant and chairman, SRK Consulting. Roger Dixon, corporate consultant and chairman, SRK Consulting.

Positive sentiment is starting to seep back into the mining environment, as key players acknowledged the need for better collaboration, healthier partnerships and more certainty about future policy.

Attending the 2014 Mining Indaba in Cape Town this week, SRK Consulting chairman, Roger Dixon, said it was encouraging to hear Minister of Mines, Susan Shabangu, highlight the value of the mining sector to SA’s economy, and the importance of supportive regulations.

He said it was also important that Shabangu emphasised how Africa’s mining development had to be integrated with its infrastructure development initiatives over the long term, rather than expecting “quick wins” from once-off projects.

Shabangu also recognised that Africa was still highly prospective in terms of exploration, with just US$5 per square kilometre spent by explorers compared to an average of US$65 spent in the Canada, Australia and Latin America.

Dixon noted that, despite the lacklustre gold price, half of the exploration activity in Africa was still focused on gold; and that SA was still a major contributor to exploration on the continent – along with Australia and Canada.

“It was also interesting to see the move away from technical project presentations at the conference, towards more vital, broader discussions about how Africa’s players need to collaborate more effectively in search of shared value in developing the minerals industry,” Dixon said.

China’s continued strong growth – although at lower levels than hoped – has been the primary cause for optimism, including the signs of recovery in the US and Europe. All three countries are major markets for the commodities that Africa mines.

“Inevitably, the state of industrial relations in SA’s mines attracted attention at the conference, with a growing recognition that a lot needs to change before any long-term resolution will be found,” said Dixon.

“A number of well-informed speakers made it clear that just about everything – from the migrant labour system and living conditions around mines, to structural issues in the Labour Relations Act and the way that centralized bargaining has evolved – needs to be re-addressed if progress toward more co-operation in the sector is to be achieved,” he said.

The message is clear. “Africa is growing and the potential is great, but good leadership is demanded to find a path through the countless challenges that exist. It is also clear that the industry’s public image does its future no favours,” commented Dixon.

“Mines do a lot of good, but are seldom pro-actively telling the world about it,” he said. “A few speakers have already made the point that the sector does not ‘sell itself’ very well – and so this negative image lingers on, fostered by the occasional well-publicised contradictory story.”

Dixon concludes to say that a new story must be written; and it must be built on trust, collaboration and sustainability.

About SRK Consulting

SRK Consulting is a mining-consulting business. It offers services from mineral exploration through mining feasibility, mine planning, and production to mine closure. Providing natural resource and development solutions, SRK also provides technical services through 50 offices in 22 countries, on six continents. With an African presence in Angola and practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the global group employs more than 1,700 staff in a range of engineering, scientific, environmental and social disciplines

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