The mining sector needs to be disrupted

This week top mining executives, investors and government leaders are meeting in Cape Town at the annual Mining Indaba. Top on the agenda is the need for a suitable enviromment to do business. In addition to the numerous formal talks, many deals will be struck on the sidelines by investors from across the globe, who are in town to get a piece of the pie.

But let’s not forget that even if mining is a key driver of many economies in Africa, it’s also responsible for many negative social and environmental consequences Africa is facing. Just last week, 900 miners were trapped under ground for more than 30 hours, in South Africa, as a result of infrastructure failure. This is symtomic of the sector, which is driven by ‘short-termism’- the urge to make quick profit, often at enormous human and environmantal costs.

It’s ironic that this meeting is taking place in a city about to become the first ever in the world to run out of water, because South Africa’s water woes to a large extent can be attributed to mining activities. As a result one would have thought that sustainabiliey would have featured top of the agenda. Unfortunately sustainability discussions will take place on the last day of the Indaba, when most of the top decision makers would have left town.

For the last 3 years water has consistently listed as a major global risk, according to World Economic Forum (WEF). However sustainability issues have barely featured in discussions on driving investments on the continent.

Even though Africa is ripe for investments, we need to emphasise long term value creation and beneficiation. As it stands now, the mining sector does not represent the future for Africa, unless the sector radically transforms to place sustainability at the core of its business model.