Modern Mining March 2023


African mining can make the most of energy transition With the global energy transition gathering pace, it is imperative that African mining keeps up with the rapidly growing demand for commodities – both to develop the continent’s economies respon sibly and to avoid the negative impact of market imbalances.

S peaking at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town last month, SRK Consulting managing director Andrew van Zyl said it was clear that key energy technologies were mineral-intensive, and would demand consider ably higher production levels of many commodities. While mining countries could reap the benefits of this demand, there were also negative impacts from failing to do so, he noted “There is likely to be considerable price volatility from rapid changes in demand,” said Van Zyl, “but mineral producing countries would be shielded to some extent from this.” He noted that ensuring an adequate supply of minerals would need all mining’s stakeholders to understand the importance of constructive engage ment – to create a conducive environment for mining’s growth. In South Africa, announcements made at the Indaba about implementing a mineral cadastre had been a positive sign of change. While mining production had to grow, he said, it also had to continue being conducted more responsibly. “As an indispensable element in the global energy transition, mining is steadily finding solutions that could pave the way to improved production and a lower carbon footprint,” he said. “In South Africa, it is important that the sector leverages and protects

SRK Consulting MD, Andrew van Zyl.

those resources we have in abundance – such as our sunlight, human talent and biodiversity.” Van Zyl said that solar and wind power were already being harnessed by leading mining com panies to supplement their power supply. This was going to remain an important contribution to decar bonisation, he noted, although the primary rationale was often to control costs and reduce operational disruptions. “The future of mining can’t really be about sim ply limiting the sector and its impacts – but should rather be focused on what more we can achieve as a society through mining’s continuous evolution,” he argued. “Where mines are pioneers in implementing solar energy, for example, there is an opportunity for that technology and support ecosystem to be made more widely accessible to local communities and businesses.” He highlighted that decarbonisation remained a strategic imperative for mining, but that this direc tion went hand in hand with making mines more resilient to climate change impacts that have already occurred. While ambitious targets had been set for carbon neutrality, there was also much work to do in meeting water management risks. “It will always be beneficial for industry stake holders to work on these challenges collaboratively – although this path is often more difficult and time consuming,” said Van Zyl. “Areas like water stew ardship require the involvement of all players in a particular catchment, including mines, communities, local authorities and other businesses.” Working together is likely to need a more pro active commitment to bridge-building between stakeholders, so the needs and interests of the different parties are better understood and appreci ated. In turn, this collaborative foundation will benefit from high-level leadership pointing the way forward. He said the industry was hoping for a more open relationship with the public sector, with signs that the political leadership would be committed to finding joint solutions with the private sector. 

SRK Consulting’s stand at Mining Indaba.

30  MODERN MINING  March 2023

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