What about all the miners?
The current mass retrenchments in mining gives us reason to worry because so much political stability is built on economic stability, and South Africa is not doing too well on either side of the equation. The global mining crisis couldn’t be any graver than it is in South Africa. SA Miners have largely missed the super cycle through political rambling and managerial muddling, and are now caught off guard by the near halving of commodity prices within the span of less than a year. Churchill observed that we must get prepared when we cannot predict. Ergo, we need to understand the dynamic (driving) forces reshaping the present and future and their impact on mining.
Think about it and you can see that the disruptions are going to come faster and harder. You need to have scenario based strategy.
The confused assemblage of miners and civil servants so easily delayed mine digitisation through a simple stump — “What about the people?” So, instead of radically reworking the production challenges in our mines, we used this very excuse to keep on adding more labor and contractors to any production challenge. Now we have an industry so uncompetitive on the world stage and mostly devoid of a mental model of how to fix it. So the rhetorical question can now be asked from the other side — what about the thousands of miners and contractors that are now being retrenched? Add to this the capital spend reductions and shelved developments, and maybe, just maybe, the answer lies in spending all our managerial efforts in designing mining systems that again can lead the world in productivity and efficiency.
The Futurist Gerald Celente writes, “If you don’t attack the future [today], the future will attack you…” In this spirit, management should pick up the challenge and re-innovate SA Mining. We can do this through leveraging what we know about mechanisation, automation and simulation. By replacing mining to its former economic position, we get the capital and the new projects reignited. These developments add real employment opportunities, and the state also gets resurgent tax revenues to direct towards the re-education and training of the people to be productive in the new digital age.
Paul Leonardi is the Duca Family Professor of Technology Management at UC Santa Barbara. He holds appointments in the Technology Management Program (TMP) and the Department of Communication. He is also the Investment Group of Santa Barbara Founding Director of the Master of Technology Management Program.
Dr. Leonardi’s research, teaching, and consulting focus on helping companies to create and share knowledge more effectively. He is interested in how implementing new technologies and harnessing the power of informal social networks can help companies take advantage of their knowledge assets to create innovative products and services.
He has authored dozens of articles that have appeared in top journals across the fields of management, organization studies, communication studies, and information systems research. He is also the author of three books on innovation and organizational change. He has won major awards for his research from the Academy of Management, the American Sociological Association, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Association for Information Systems, the International Communication Association, the National Communication Association, and the National Science Foundation.
Over the past decade, he has consulted with for-profit and non-profit organizations about how to improve communication between departments, how to use social technologies to improve internal knowledge sharing, how to structure global product development operations, and how to manage the human aspects of new technology implementation.
Before coming to UCSB, Dr. Leonardi worked at Northwestern University on the faculties of the School of Communication, the McCormick School of Engineering, and the Kellogg School of Management. He received his Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization at Stanford University.
Willem Buhrmann is an experienced mining professional that has extensive African and international experience in project management, strategy implementation and corporate finance. Willem was previously Business Development Manager (Africa) for Rio Tinto Energy and more recently consulted to the wider mining industry including majors and a variety of juniors. He holds degrees in finance (Chartered Accountant) and the legal world (LL.B.)