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Thought Leader of the Year: Alastair Macfarlane – Mandela Mining Precinct

Alastair Macfarlane, in his role as co-director of the Mandela Mining Precinct, has been instrumental in reinvigorating research and development and innovation in South Africa’s mining industry.

His role at the Mandela Mining Precinct is to spearhead the coordination of research activities towards the modernisation of South Africa’s mining operations through the development of next-generation mechanised mining systems required for the next generation of modern mining.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2020

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Macfarlane understands the need for the mining industry to be sufficiently prepared to embrace the fourth industrial revolution which requires the mining industry to adapt to this in order to keep up with the demands of global players.

In his role at the Mandela Mining Precinct, Macfarlane has been vocal about the need to find innovative ways of addressing safety challenges within the mining industry and, while quick to admit that the industry needs to adopt mechanised mining systems in a bid to remove people from dangerous areas, he is also aware of the people-component in mining and the need to upskill mineworkers to successfully apply new technologies to both upskill mineworkers and also improve the health and safety of mineworkers.

Macfarlane is also passionate about supporting and enhancing local equipment manufacturing capability and capacity in South Africa to take the research findings and deliver technological innovations and solutions for the mining industry capable of addressing the South African mining industry’s unique challenges, such as deep level, narrow reef mining characterised in the gold and platinum sectors.

Comments from the judges

“Championing the movement to mechanisation/modernisation of mining is critically important and at the same time complex. Alastair understands a balance needs to be found which simultaneously addresses issues around productivity, employment, safety and economic growth,” Ian Haddon

“Given the realities of the digital transition, Alastair aims to spearhead industry understanding and adoption of automated solutions, particularly supporting safety and helping to upskill the workforce,” Tom Quinn