South Africa trip report - is mining there acting fast enough ?

Elliot Hunt, our Chief Commercial Officer, recently returned from another South Africa trip. He reports his findings and highlights and points to a lack of action in the country's mining sector.

I’ve been to South Africa quite a few times now and I always meet such interesting people. Over the past couple years, the major themes have remained the same which is to reduce costs, increase production and reduce emissions.

We have about 40 solutions on our platform which are specifically addressing major issues and concerns in mining. These span areas such as water treatment, biodiversity tracking, maintenance, safety and operational efficiency but the ones South African mining companies keep coming back to are our fuel saving and grinding optimisation solutions.

With this trip to South Africa, in conjunction with our South African Innovation Consultant, Joan Makonese, I visited mining companies who focused on iron, gold, platinum, coal, diamonds and even vanadium. With the exception of coal and diamonds, for obvious reasons (you don’t need to grind thermal coal and diamonds), they were all interested in increasing their throughput and reducing their energy consumption with our grinding media solution. And actually every single company was interested in bringing our fuel saving solutions to their operations.

This is re-affirmed by our Innovation Forecast report, as well as the conversations we have daily with South African and Global mining companies. However, the need to reduce energy consumption is even bigger in South Africa due to their heavy reliance on coal and diesel for energy production. With this in mind, we brought along one of our power optimisation solution providers as well which has also seen heavy interest in the region.

The other really interesting thing I saw, and have seen in South Africa for years, is that whilst everyone talks about these issues and the need to innovate, when it actually comes to getting everyone together to work on an innovation project and bring it into the operation it grinds to a halt. I fully understand that we need to be cautious about bringing things in that could be detrimental to an operation. However, we see heavy discussions about wanting to change but no action. We have witnessed that in South African mining it can take years to get to a point to just test something new and this mindset of “give me a case study of somewhere you’ve done this in a mine in South Africa” needs to change. It’s an oxymoron; Everyone is saying innovation is the way forward but then ask if this has been deployed and proven in your particular region or they can’t proceed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, South Africa from a mining perspective is a fantastic leader particularly in Africa. However, I have experienced first hand the appetite to dive straight in and test something quickly in other regions. The longer we take to test, the longer we take to adopt which means a longer time to impact.

I’ll wrap up by saying that I love South Africa and we will start to bring in new innovations but I feel there needs to be a mindset shift from red tape around innovation to a more streamlined process or the region will be in danger of being surpassed.

I’m excited to help this region grow and want to see the change in adoption of innovation and change in 2024, not have to wait to show people where innovation has been widely proven and deployed elsewhere…Otherwise, it’s no longer innovation and we’ve missed the boat for significant cost and environmental impact reductions.

But that is what I and Axora are here for. A huge thank you to Joan Makonese once again for all her support and hard work. Look out South Africa, I’ll be working hard to get you innovating more quickly over the next months and years!