Mining research institution launched

2012-09-28 07:06

The launch of the Wits Mining Research Institution (WMRI) is an historic day for the development of skills within the mining industry, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has said.

Speaking at the launch of the WMIR at the University in Johannesburg yesterday, Shabangu said the institution would bring meaningful transformation and sustainable development in the industry.

“This initiative by Wits and others like it will be the difference between lip service and meaningful transformation and sustainable development.”

Shabangu said the institute had to ensure that historically disadvantaged South Africans in the sector were empowered so they could play a meaningful role in the sector’s development.

“Monitoring of compliance and implementation has revealed that performance is skewed towards ownership transactions at the expense of other commitments, including employment equity,” said Shabangu.

She added there was space in the sector to strengthen the links between employing the previously disadvantaged and training them as well as their career progression in the industry.

She said the WMIR had to play a significant role in driving skills development within the mining sector.

“As the sector grows, we expect the demand for skills to rise commensurately ... we will need more artisans, mining engineers, metallurgists and so on ...

“This will best be accomplished through the development of partnerships with institutions at the forefront of these efforts such as the MQA (Mining Qualifications Authority) and relevant science councils.”

Shabangu said a vibrant and dynamic research and development sector and a culture of innovation and skills development were the centre of achieving the vision of transformation.

“The extent to which this institution collaborates with other relevant research and academic institutions, government departments and industry to drive innovation and research in exploration, mining and beneficiation will be a key determinant of its long term success,” said Shabangu.

Interim director at WMIR, Professor Nielen van der Merwe, said the institute aimed to advance the sustainability of the mining sector as well as affected societies by conducting research in key areas including methods of mining, exploration and health and safety.

“It will expand mining research from geology and technical studies to include the social impact of mining, community participation and labour issues,” said Van der Merwe.

He said there were currently too many people living in poverty in the immediate areas where mines were based.

“We seriously need to review the manner of mining companies’ participation in the communities in which they operate.”

Van der Merwe said moving forward, the institution would perform a comprehensive needs analysis using what was already available.

“At the same time the required collaborations have to be formalised and a core group of experienced researchers must be brought into the fold.”

WMIR aims to be the preferred supplier of mining research for the African continent.

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