The Fourth Industrial Revolution can not only benefit mining companies but also SMMEs and the entire mining value chain.

This was one of the key takeaways from a panel discussion at the Investing in African Mining Indaba virtual event. The topic of discussion centred on how African mining can harness technology and automation in a pandemic to help grow economies. It also focused on how labour and industry can work together to ensure that Africa’s mining sector does not fall behind while safeguarding employees.

According to Clive Govender, CEO and founder of CGC Consulting the SMME sector in mining has been severely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now, there is an opportunity to bring SMMEs back into the sector by using digital platforms and tools and creating more inclusive and transparent opportunities and this will be key for reigniting the economy,” he added.

Govender explained that one of the biggest challenges for SMMEs is that they don’t get the opportunity to be part of the supply chain. “Building a digital platform that includes SMMEs will allow these companies to visualise and see opportunities not just across one particular mine but across the entire industry as a whole. This also creates inclusiveness for mining communities because most SMMEs come from such communities.” he stated.

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Going beyond the realm of mining

Meanwhile, Nicky Black, director of the Social and Economic Development Programme at ICMM, stated that technology has innovated the way that companies engage with mining companies during the pandemic. “This has been done in three ways. Firstly, we are seeing mining companies financing state-of-the-art testing facilities such as Anglo American who brought in a COVID-19 testing laboratory.

“We are also seeing the use of logistics tracking systems for the transportation of medical supplies and also in the sharing of public health messages. So, technology is being used to respond to the medical crisis as well as to address socio-economic conditions through this huge time of disruption.”

Black concluded that technology is also been used to engage communities in consultation, project development and approval processes and this has helped mining companies to be more inclusive and transparent in their consultation processes with communities.