DESPITE facing turbulent global market headwinds, the recently-concluded mining expo has affirmed the notion that the industry’s value and production growth outlook for 2017 will gradually improve, and that it will remain the cornerstone of Namibia’s economic hopes.
In broad terms, the mining industry managed to contribute about N$25 billion in export earnings, while N$1 billion was derived from royalties during the previous financial year.
These figures cannot be taken lightly, in the context of Namibia’s economic development and its current growth trajectory.
However, there are clear signs that more needs to be done in the dimensions of innovation, as mining has largely been extractive, without beneficiation or value-addition, which over the years has led to the exporting of cheaply priced raw commodities, while Namibia continues to import expensive, refined products.
With very little doubt, it is time for Namibia to synchronise trading laws, prioritise the industry’s value-addition, or alternatively form value-addition clusters, in order to reap more from the available mineral resources.
Mineral value-addition is a significant employment multiplier, which has the potential to create jobs for young Namibians, and produce ripple effects throughout the economy.
It is under this pretext that local mining firms should, at the very least, start focusing on how they can build future mines that use technology and data to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Imperatively, future competitiveness in mining will no longer be premised upon land and capital, as it has been in the past. Instead, the world is quickly moving towards a technology and data-enabled future, in which success and failure will depend on a mine’s ability to extract efficiencies and productivity, from the information collected at its operations.
This will lead to the evolution of traditional mining companies into knowledge-based companies, which use data analysis and technology to optimise the extraction of minerals. In so doing, mines will cope when they come face to face with non-traditional competitors – companies whose superiority in technology and data analysis will make the physical extraction of a metal a secondary concern.
Although risks have to be taken into account, before making these advancements, they pale in comparison to the many other risks that mining face, if they continue to operate in the traditional ways that have been a feature of their operations since independence in 1990.
The tools and trades of 20th century mining are being pushed aside by a new generation of techniques and processes, which draw their inspiration from a variety of knowledge industries. With this change, also comes the demand for the same type of talent that currently flows to software, gaming and other popular technology sectors. Mining needs that talent too.
Ultimately, it’s fair to say that for mining, moving forward requires a new type of risk-taking that places technology and its utilisation both under and above ground, as a top priority. To facilitate this, mines need to build an ecosystem around their industry, which isn’t just about the movement of raw materials, but rather about the exchange of information.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015