IT is time for smaller-scale miners to determine their own futures with bold decisions to extricate the mining industry from the economic and COVID-19 doldrums that the market finds itself in.
That’s according to Afrimat CEO, Andries van Heerden, who believes that strong leadership is required now to put mining companies, and their supply chains, in a position to benefit from opportunities that already exist or may materialise in the future.
“Leaders words and actions today will undoubtedly shape the future of our industry tomorrow, so let’s make sure we paint a positive picture and invest in a brighter tomorrow,” he said in an address at surface mining industry association, ASPASA’s, CEO and top leadership seminar.
He added that there is a lot to be positive about right now with the industry have experienced a sharp V-shaped recovery since hard lockdown ended last year. This is a sign of the strength of the industry and how demand for mined materials has remained high despite the lockdown situation.
While all mined materials remain in strong demand, building materials such as sand, stone, clay, cement, and other materials will be required to rebuild our economy and are expected to grow steeply in months to come.
“This is a tough industry that has always had its ups and downs. Now it is time to get on with it and position our mines to meet ever growing future demands. These include the Presidency’s commitment to unlock large-scale infrastructure and construction projects that will need the entire industry to span together in order to provide the sheer volumes of materials needed.”
Van Heerden said the projects outlined so far involve road, rail and other infrastructure projects across the country. “Simultaneously, the private sector is moving ahead with plans for new construction projects, and this is already showing in the latest plans passed by authorities and construction works in progress already. We need to realise that there is a strong recovery taking place already and now is the time to capitalise.
“In hindsight, at the start of hard lockdown last year, we thought the outcome would be far worse than it actually is. On a positive note, interest rates are the lowest in our lifetimes, personal and company taxation saw a decline last year and there are more construction contracts being awarded than before.”
Van Heerden cited data gathered for the independent Afrimat Construction Index which shows that there was a sharp recovery in production volumes of mined commodities since work resumed after hard lockdown. This, he said, showed the resilience of the local market and reflects a strong V-shaped recovery in remuneration, hardware sales, mortgage advances and other key markers.
A commodity boom driven by demand from China, USA and the rest of the word is leading a charge to the recovery of the industry to previous highs. Challenges such as funding still need to be overcome, but it is anticipated that innovation from within the market itself may alleviate these challenges. “One thing is certain, though, the old way of funding is gone and we need to innovate if we are to survive.”
He suggested that low points experienced by the industry over the past years had led to a serious shortage of skills throughout the industry and that opportunities now exist to train and retrain staff to fulfil new and changing roles within the industry. Investments in skills should be a top priority to prevent the mining industry falling into third world ways of existence.
“As leaders we need to choose whether we going to be victims or whether we take charge of the situation to ensure future sustainability. We need to roll up our sleeves, upskill our people, get involved behind the scenes in our industry associations, communities and in private/public sector initiatives to help things along for the industry.”