After the tragedies that dominated the mining sector in 2012, minds have turned to address the realities that were exposed.
- There is urgency in the agenda to address negative perceptions of South Africa’s mining sector from investors, government, communities and labour.
- For mining companies, business will never be the same and the social and sustainability agenda will feature more strongly. Stakeholders have, however, repeatedly confirmed their commitment to South Africa (SA) as an investment destination. Key players like Gold Fields, the Anglo group of companies, BHP and AngloGold Ashanti all emphasised it.
- The South African Government has confirmed that the industry needs to be nurtured and supported in the interest of all stakeholders. While SA’s contribution is getting smaller, Africa is expanding rapidly. Mining companies’ focus will keep shifting north.
- There was a sense that the overall commitment to the success of mining in South Africa is strong.
Additionally, after the extended commodity boom, the focus in the industry going forward will be on cost savings and productivity, portfolio restructuring, tough decisions around project viability, shareholder return, and social impact and sustainability.
The industry is settling at a 'new normal' operating model, based on higher operating costs (especially labour and energy) and increased pressure to secure and maintain a social license to operate. There is a general acceptance of this new normal among executives and there is a move to internal restructuring to operate in this new reality.
As the environment becomes more complex, advisors have an even more important role to play – to add their “weight in copper” as quoted by one speaker.
In reflection, “partnerships” and “constructive dialogue” were frequent buzzwords during the conference and will drive much of the movement in the sector going forward. This includes suppliers, governments, investors and competitors – where we are likely to see collaboration between players like never before in the coming years.