A multidisciplinary Mining Resilience Research Centre (MRRC) has been established at the University of Pretoria (UP) to focus on multi-disciplinary research activities within the mining industry and to develop lasting partnerships with leading international research and academic institutions.
Prof Jan du Plessis, Sasol Chair in Health, Safety and Environment in the Department of Mining Engineering at UP, says although mining faces severe challenges under the current economic conditions, it remains an important sector for growth and transformation in Africa. “Issues around legacy, responsibility, impact and innovation need to be addressed in order to achieve a resilient mining industry in Africa. At the heart of any strategy to achieve resilience in African Mining lies the requirement for appropriate knowledge, capability, attitude and behaviour of the mining leaders of the future. The establishment of the MRRC is the result of thorough industry consultation and the main aim of this Centre is to provide modern approaches, world class facilities and globally relevant topics, making it possible for researchers to excel and for the industry to build capacity.”
According to the World Bank (2016), Africa is home to about 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 10% of the world’s oil, and 8% of the world’s natural gas. In South Africa the mining industry is responsible for an estimated19% of all economic activity and supports at least another 25 % of up and downstream economic activities. Despite this considerable wealth on the continent, it is plagued by poverty, social inequality, and slow economic development. However, mining remains a key driver for growth and is inextricably linked to Africa’s future – with mining comes employment and skills development, investment in education, the construction of infrastructure and the generation of much-needed revenue.
Amongst others the MRRC is establishing multidisciplinary collaborations that will address:
• future mining education with the aim to co-create, develop and adopt a Resilient African Mining Model as the blueprint for mine designs of the future;
• future new technologies including mechanised mining, automation, robotics and the associated workplace order and culture;
• future socio-economic aspects of mining, on how empowered, technologically enabled and educated communities relate to mining operations; and
• future mining governance in Africa to meet the highest standards.
Faculties that currently form part of the MRRC are the Faculties of Humanities, Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences, Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology and Law. The intention is that more faculties at the University of Pretoria that are involved in mining research will eventually also form part of the MRRC activities, making it a fully interdisciplinary mining research centre. The MRRC is currently busy with six research projects in Engineering, Built Environment and Humanities.
As part of the Centre strategic intend it has and will continue to form partnerships with leading International and local universities. This will include student and lecturer exchanges, joint research activities and the opportunities for post graduate studies in the different speciality fields.