In an industry that never sleeps, surface mining industry association, ASPASA, has used quieter times as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to tackle challenges that are hampering the industry while seeking opportunities for its members to thrive in tough economic times.
The once-bustling offices of the association with continuous meetings and visits across the country have all but ground to a halt, but that has not stopped the office staff and committees from rising to the challenge and finding ways to move forward.
ASPASA director, Nico Pienaar, says the restrictions on movement of people as a result of the pandemic has in many ways helped the association to streamline its work and offer better services to its members. Key aspects in the development of the industry, such as training, technical summits and webinars, as well as new communication tools have emerged that are simplifying and improving the delivery of services to its members.
For the first time, mines and quarries who are members of the association from across the country, have participated in numerous live events that may well reshape the industry in the post-Covid economy. In much the same way workshops have been quickly convened to deal with emerging issues and the newest technologies are being put through their paces to serve the surface mining industries.
“Live meeting technologies such as Zoom and MS Teams have got us all in virtual rooms doing business more quickly and thoroughly than ever before. Rather than relying on small sample groups per region, the technologies now allow us to call together all stakeholders in a single meeting and engage directly with them. Meeting recordings can also be viewed later via YouTube or simply be emailed to interested parties at their convenience.
“Likewise, our workshops now reach a far wider audience in even the most remote parts of the country which was simply not possible before. High travel and accommodation costs for attendees or to host a workshop in these remote areas have effectively been eliminated leaving no excuse for individuals not to attend.”
Similarly, Nico says its various committees have enjoyed the same benefits and have actively moved to resolve issues and seek opportunities. Some examples of the achievements of the committees during the lockdown periods have included writing and testing new environmental auditing practices. ASPASA will assist mine managers to ensure that paperwork is correct and legally compliant. It is also essential that the management team know what is needed and expected to comply.
“In many ways we were forced to make use of these new technologies and we are grateful that they have streamlined our communications with our stakeholders and improved almost every aspect of our business.
“Although not everything can be automated and improved with technology, we are grateful that we have used it to improve our service to the mining industry and allow us to actively engage Government and other stakeholders to ensure the success of the industry in future. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic we have moved the industry forward faster than ever before and will continue to use these technologies to do so in future,” conclude Nico.