The mining industry could do much better addressing challenges such as the fourth industrial revolution and occupational safety, as well as addressing the impact of these on labour and communities.
This is according to Gold Fields chair Cheryl Carolus, who addressed the 2019 Mining Indaba on Monday morning.
During a panel discussion chaired by Power FM host Iman Rappetti, Mineral Resources minister Gwede Mantashe had told delegates it was a shared duty to prepare labour for the fourth industrial revolution.
"It is the collective responsibility of the industry and government to up-skill the worker and adapt the worker to changes in the mining environment," Mantashe said.
Carolus, a former board chair of South African Airways, whose political career included involvement with the United Democratic Front and African National Congress, said she was inspired by the minister's keynote address.
"It's not often that we are inspired by what others say. But it critical that we consider the importance of mining in SA and having tough conversations on mining," she said.
It was important for the industry to take its role and impact on communities seriously, she added, as opposed to extracting resources and leaving communities worse off.
"We as the industry often get a bad rap as an extractive industry.
"We can't have a healthy industry when such a reputation continues. This is a great opportunity for labour to return to collaboration with the industry," said Carolus.
Asked whether Mantashe's address had done enough to restore investor confidence in South African mining, portfolio manager for Investec Asset Management George Cheveley said the keynote was part of a series of steps government could take to reassure investors.
"There is no one speech that can change investors' minds. There [is] a whole series of things that need to happen, and we feel like that is beginning to happen here. Everything is part of the improving process," said Cheveley.
Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said the company was committed to living out the mining industry's potential for growth as well as social benefit.
"In terms of South Africa's potential, the first thing we can do is do a lot better with the assets that we have. That represents significant progress for the country as things stand," said Cutifani.
Exiting the panel discussion, Mantashe told delegates: "The industry must move closer to learning that mining is not about rocks. It is about people."
The Mining Indaba kicked off at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Monday morning. With an estimated 6000 delegates, this year's installment is expected to be the largest one yet.