Challenges facing the South African Mining Industry by Prof Cyril O’Connor

Prof Cyril O’Connor’s presented the 2016 Academy Lecture, “Challenges facing the South African mining industry”, in October 2016 in Cape Town and in March 2017 in Gauteng. Prof O’Connor is the CEO South African Minerals to Metals Research Institute

It has been estimated that South Africa has the largest mineral reserves in the world with a value of between US$2.5 and $4.7 trillion. The country’s mineral deposits are dominated by platinum-group metals (88% of global reserves), manganese (80%), chrome (72%), vanadium (32%) and gold (30%).
On the other hand the mining industry in South Africa faces significant challenges and pressures:
• To reduce the utilization of key resources such as energy and water,
• To manage health and safety risks,
• To improve productivity through a greater degree of automation,
• To reduce the environmental impacts of the operations and of waste production,
• To ensure that the industry earns licenses to operate from indigenous communities and
• To ensure safe and secure mine closure processes.
These challenges must be addressed in the context of diminishing ore grades and in recent years, in particular, depressed commodity prices. Yet it is common cause that modern economies, especially those in the developing world, are greatly dependent on mining. Hence it is critical for South Africa to develop a strong and sustainable mining industry that contributes meaningfully to the economic growth of the country and to the enhancement of the quality of life of all its citizens.