Outlook 2020

Modernisation key to future growth

Chris Griffith, CEO of Anglo American Platinum.jpg

As we all know, over the past six years or so the global mining industry has come under extraordinary financial pressure against the background of the global economic downturn and the generally feeble economic recovery, with institutions such as the IMF continuing to lower their global growth forecasts for 2015 and beyond.

Much has been written and spoken about the many other problems bedevilling the mining industry in South Africa, which led to us missing out on the mining boom and continue to weigh heavily on the mining industry.

Then there are often mixed signals from the political establishment, with calls for investment and growth mixed with threats or messages of interventionist practices such as strategic minerals, developmental pricing, beneficiation and indirect taxation from some political quarters. These very issues continue to pose a risk to the industry at this critical time. We have lost the confidence of not only of our shareholders, but also of the broader community.

I am, however, encouraged by the increasing willingness on the part of government to get to grips with the issues that concern the mining sector.

For the South African mining industry to deliver on its huge potential will require political will, social cohesion and industrial and commercial pragmatism – modernisation is key to this – indeed it’s a prerequisite for the industry’s survival. The mining industry must have the boldness and vision to grasp the nettle of game-changing innovation and start to collaborate with each other to close the technology gap in order to deliver step-changes in performance, particularly in the areas of productivity and safety, thereby creating a modern working environment for our employees and an industry that can deliver returns through the cycles.

But modernisation is not just about innovation, new technologies, mechanisation and automated processes. We will only attain our vision of a modern mine if we work in partnership with our employees, government, unions and NGOs. This is particularly the case in how we go about up-skilling and improving the lives of our current and future workforce. The industry will have fewer direct jobs, but more skilled and better-paid ones affording employees the opportunity to live with their families adjacent to the mine in towns that have a decent infrastructure such as schools, roads, water and medical facilities.

This modernisation drive will create jobs in non-traditional areas such as the service industry related to equipment manufacture and servicing. For South Africa’s mining industry, taking the path of modernisation may be a tough decision… but it’s the only choice we have in a globalised world.

Chris Griffith, CEO of Anglo American Platinum

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