Its Time to Tighten Ties – Part 3

India and South Africa – Mining Partnerships

In the last part of this series on tie-ups, we explored the potential of a partnership between the Indian Mining sector and Australia’s. In this blog we are going to see what lessons and benefits the Indian mining industry can gain from co-operating with yet another one of it’s geological brothers – South Africa. Like Australia and India, South Africa was also part of the Gondwana basin in the Paleozoic era and has a rich geological profile quite similar to India . But the dynamic between the mining industry in India and South Africa is vastly different from the collaboration India has with Australia.  While Australian mining sector is far superior and has more to offer us in terms of expertise and technology, South Africa and India in terms of mining expertise are poised more or less equally. The mining sector contributed to around 6.8 % of South Africa’s economy in 2017. 

And both India and South Africa are growing economies and the importance of mining to their economies cannot be overstated. Mining as we can clearly see is no longer just a creator of jobs. There are new concerns emerging in the recent years like sustainable development and innovation that impact mining and make it a key driver of growth of the manufacturing industry and consequently the whole economy. So it is only right that India and South Africa join hands to nurture and strengthen each other.  

Why must we collaborate with South Africa?

 In the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba held in Capetown recently, India’s Ministry of Mines secretary, Mr.Arun Kumar had pressed African countries and the private sector in India to look at opportunities for partnership in the mining and downstream sectors. The focus on India- South Africa mining relations by both the countries is totally justified for the following reasons.

  • India’s fast-growing economy can contribute investments in Africa especially in building mining-related infrastructure.
  • South Africa’s has rich reserves of metals like Gold and Platinum which are in high demand in India
  • India has an abundance of skilled graduates ready to facilitate technology transfer. 
  • The bans in Coal extraction and Iron ore mining in India due to environmental concerns has driven Indian companies to look for resources in other Countries and South Africa with  is an attractive option
  • Easy Access to Indian ports from South Africa 
  • And lastly, as the head of African Rainbow Minerals, Mr Patrice Motsepe puts it “There is a very strong relationship. South African businessmen feel very comfortable in India. It’s like home, and the same can be said about Indian businessmen in South Africa. We have got close to 2m South Africans of Indian origin. We also speak very emotionally about the time Gandhi spent in South Africa. Those are very special, emotional relations. Right now, the strong ties of the past have been translated into strong, competitive and very profitable relationships in the business front.”

In what can we collaborate ?

The avenues for collaboration between India and South Africa’s Mining sectors are many but here are some that definitely deserve the most attention

1. Digital technology

 This is the age of digital technology and the place of technology in mining is increasingly evident Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will evolve into an information management and distribution tool and as a data integration platform. it will help in achieving cost-effectiveness in exploration. Policy makers in India and South Africa can work together with other ministries to develop an enabling ecosystem that promotes digital interventions in the mining sector and look for big data solutions for managing geological data. Both India and South Africa have started working towards this goal. They can perhaps start by creating a joint fund to promote investments in digital initiatives. Such a joint initiative can provide economies of scale that will benefit industries in both countries. Further, exploring the use of ‘Virtual reality’ to replicate real-time mine conditions can help find solutions for issues in mine safety that both India and South Africa are plagued by.

2. Innovation

India and South Africa must try to emulate advanced peers like Australia and Canada in pushing innovation in the mining sector. Both countries are poised favorably in the right direction but still have a lot of scope for improvement and co-operation. According to ‘ The Digital Technology in Mining Report, 2017 by Accenture, the private sector is making larger investments in mining operations, specially in the areas of robotics and automation, drones and wearing technology. In 2016, the Chamber of mines of South Africa and The Innovation Hub, a subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency conducted an Advanced Orebody Knowledge challenge to encourage innovations that ‘see through the rock’

3. Sustainability and Inclusive growth

Sustainability and Inclusive growth are themes that are being widely talked about across the globe for the impact and significance it has on all countries.  So it is important that any development in the mining sector in the future takes the sustainability of resources into account. In India, the private sector has been sensitized to focus on its sustainability performance in addition to its financial reporting. The Government has also brought about legislation to effect positive changes that promote sustainability in mining operations. Anglo American Platinum, a mining company in South Africa has developed Alchemy, a community-based empowerment scheme that seeks to benefit mining communities. In addition to all these individuals initiatives, both countries can work together to progress further in this direction. They can perhaps look at Canada’s TSM (Towards Sustainable Mining) initiative 

   The scope of a partnership between South Africa and India in Mining is unlimited as is the sky and the ideas discussed above are just to open our eyes to see the promise of what the distant horizons hold. It is common sense that the common problems that the Mining Industry faces in both countries can be easily tackled if their strengths and advantages are combined. As the popular saying goes, ‘Two is always better than one’ 

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