The road ahead: People are the real gems

accreditation

As South Africa celebrates a generation of freedom, Anglo American acknowledges its deep roots in the country and looks ahead to its contribution in the next 25 years and beyond. Over the next five weeks experience 25 Reasons to Believe with City Press as we explore the economy, job creation, enterprise development, health, land reform, sustainability, education, technology and – most important of all – the communities

FutureSmart Mining™ thinking has become intrinsically synonymous with De Beers Group Managed Operations, a core guiding principle that “gives us permission to operate”, says the company’s managing director, Mpumi Zikalala.

Zikalala puts it all down to “a meeting of minds, and taking the cue from futuristic thinkers within Anglo American such as [group chief executive] Mark Cutifani and [technical director at Anglo American] Tony O’Neill”.

IN NUMBERS:

2046: the life extension of VENETIA

94 million: the number of carats expected to be mined through this extension

40: the percentage of SA’s diamond production that is mined at Venetia

4 365: the number of jobs Venetia mine provides

“Through them, we’re exposed to a lot of what’s happening in relation to smart mining. With its new ways of looking at mining and implementing innovative operational approaches, Anglo has given us the necessary impetus to improve our methods from a perspective of the fourth industrial revolution.”

According to Zikalala, it doesn’t just entail efficiencies and production procedures.

“The assistance we’re receiving from our parent company, Anglo American, also involves driving operations in a way that will make a long-lasting contribution to the fight against the climate crisis.”

Whether it’s construction of a new underground facility at the company’s Venetia mine near South Africa’s parched Mapungubwe border with Zimbabwe, or traversing Canada’s cold northern tundra to mine diamonds in sensitive Arctic areas, being environmentally progressive has become par for the course.

“Over the past few years, it’s become very clear to us that we can’t work like we used to. We need be wise to what the world wants and what it means for the communities in which we work,” says Zikalala.

“Whether it’s up north in Limpopo where the temperature can rise to more than 40°C, or in Canada, where it can drop to -40°C, we have had to work very hard to add extra shine to our operations. We have to figure out, for example, how we can change over to waterless mining practices and be more energy efficient.

“For us, it meant immersing ourselves in innovation. We took technology and made it part of everything we do.”

And there are tremendous business benefits to this approach, she says, explaining that “it helped get De Beers Group into a significantly better space”.

“When one looks at all the different parts of our business, whether it’s exploration and ensuring that we proceed with the utmost environmental sensitivity, different technologies have made all the difference for us.”

Getting on track with global technology trends, she says, comes with the added benefit of following the exponential curve of progress and benefiting from the optimised operational edge that fourth industrial revolution strategies are already giving the business.

When one looks at all the different parts of our business, whether it’s exploration and ensuring that we proceed with the utmost environmental sensitivity, different technologies have made all the difference for us.

Zikalala emphasises that it comes down to safety and community involvement.

“At Venetia, we’re going just over 1km below the existing open-pit mine and, by the time we start mining the resource, which could be as soon as later this year, we need to be 100% sure that, with so much expertise and technology at our disposal, we have done all we can and more to ensure that the safety of our people comes first.”

The same goes for exploratory efforts into mining in Canada, Zikalala says.

“We know the diamonds are there, but we’re also very aware that we’re working in an environment of extreme sensitivity. So, when we talk about FutureSmart Mining™, it’s on a case-by-case basis.”

She says the standard of technological preparation at De Beers Group involves a team of innovators working hand-in-hand with sustainability professionals.

I find it hard to believe that mining – until recently scorned as environmentally degrading – can be done with so much sensitivity.

This marriage of environmental awareness and progressive methods, she says, has led to successes in safely mining resources with little, if any, lasting effects on the communities and terrain in which De Beers Group operates.

“If I look at the good work we’ve done in Canada and up north in Limpopo, I am completely blown away and amazed. I find it hard to believe that mining – until recently scorned as environmentally degrading – can be done with so much sensitivity.”

In fact, says Zikalala, “environmental consideration, in tandem with excellence in extraction, lies at the core of what we do these days”.

The reciprocal benefit of communities buying into mining activities in their respective areas has made it even more worthwhile.

“De Beers has been mining in South Africa since 1888, but we’re beginning to think that it’s not the diamonds that necessarily keep us going – it’s the communities in which we work and the people who welcome us into their worlds, especially once we’ve gained their trust because of how we work. These people are the real gems.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24

E-Editions

Read the digital editions of City Press here.
Read now
Voting Booth
Residents of the West Rand are living in fear of illegal miners who they accuse of terrorising them as the police turn a blind eye. Who should be held accountable for the scourge of illegal mining and criminality in abandoned mines?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Incompetent police
10% - 22 votes
Mineral resources department
6% - 13 votes
Home Affairs
2% - 5 votes
All the above
82% - 184 votes
Vote