15 August 2019
As part of an ongoing series of dialogues with key stakeholders, I recently hosted a dinner in South Africa to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the role of the mining industry. With leaders from civil society, government, labour, business and academia, the conversation touched upon a remarkable number of issues, challenges and possible solutions.
Five themes emerged from the discussion and these are summarised here.
- Reconciliation with the past
The group recognised that the mining sector had an enormous positive impact over the past century, but some commented that it continues to be important to address some of the negative aspects of its legacy. One of the most effective ways to address legacy issues, is to recognise past wrongs and current concerns and to work to reconcile these with an aspirational future vision. Greater engagement and transparency are the foundations for such a trust building endeavour.
- Fourth Industrial Revolution – Challenge, but also opportunity
All agreed that the conversation on the Fourth Industrial Revolution is long overdue and that Anglo American has the pedigree to convene this type of discussion. The digitisation of the mining sector and the broader economy should be seen as an opportunity to re-skill and re-direct workers into higher value technology-driven jobs such as data mining and data analytics.
- Invest even more in R&D and innovation
A greater emphasis on and investment in research and development funded by the mining industry at universities is seen as an important part of the mining sector’s future success. The creation of new academic and research chairs would lead to knowledge development and greater applied research. It is essential to “bring back R&D to South African universities; if not we will remain receivers of innovation and not creators of innovation”. It is, however, important that innovation is not limited to mining, but is extended beyond and benefits broader society.