Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 104

Thought leader
Producing ‘T’-shaped
graduates yields living gold
Since mining can affect all 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)
to varying degrees – both positively and negatively – it is poised to
play an extraordinary role in achieving them, writes Dee Bradshaw.
To do so, it needs to go through a metamorphosis;
from the current negative perception of mining as an
environmental and socially compromising extractives
sector, to that of a cornerstone of sustainable
development, through supplying critical resources
while generating significant multiplier effects across the
broader economy.
For this to happen, the SDGs must be more than
aspirational targets: they need to be ingrained in the
culture and behaviour of all participants, and the
appropriate technology needs to be developed and
Minerals and metals fundamentally underpin the
functioning of every aspect of modern society. In
addition to the obvious contribution of smart devices
and their connectivity, there is no means of generating
energy without metals, whether using renewables
or fossil fuels; and no agricultural, construction or
manufacturing industry is possible. Even our health and
well-being is dependent on the minerals and metals
in daily use. As the incoming fourth industrial
revolution accelerates and takes hold with
increased technology, automation and
connectivity, this need is expected to
increase exponentially.
However, as part of the extractives
sector, the mining industry globally
faces multiple, multifaceted internal
and external challenges. These
include technical challenges, such
as declining grades and difficult
locations; financial and economic
challenges, with cost escalations, delays
and rising operating costs, and lower
productivity; and social and environmental
challenges, which include heightened competition
for water, energy and land, growing scrutiny of the
industry’s social and environmental performance,
and an increasingly complex policy and regulatory
environment. Although the sector makes a significant
contribution to the macro, social and political economy,
its long association with environmental disasters,
human rights violations, unequal wealth distribution
and community conflicts tarnishes its reputation and
threatens its licence to operate (LTO).
The key goal related to mining is SDG 9, with its
aim being to build resilient infrastructure, promote
sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation; but it
is underpinned by many of the others. The Minerals to
Metals Signature Theme is committed to doing just that,
through the focused activities of innovative, integrated
research, stakeholder engagement and postgraduate
education. The research philosophy has a systemic,
holistic view of mineral beneficiation that is underpinned
by a fundamental understanding of the processes
and development of the technologies supporting it.
This includes our belief in the circular economy, and in
working with urban as well as geological deposits. Our
innovative technical methods and processes incorporate
sustainability principles, building on the strong technical
expertise of the research groupings in the Department
of Chemical Engineering.
Our focus is on the interface between technology,
society and regulation, as demonstrated by the
collaboration between the two DST/NRF
SARChl Chairs: Mineral Beneficiation
and Mineral Law in Africa. We produce
‘T’-shaped graduates who can
operate from an integrated systems
perspective, but also with a strong
understanding of and competence
in their discipline; they will be
comfortable working outside their
core discipline in multidisciplinary
teams, as well as being mentally agile
– able to identify and respond to nonintuitive opportunities that will provide
step changes and lead the way in building
a platform for sustainability through minerals
and metals. They will join the community of practice
equipped to lead, shape and sustain our world,
developing our true legacy – living gold!
Professor Dee Bradshaw is the DST/NRF SARChI Chair
in Mineral Beneficiation, and director of the Minerals to
Metals Initiative.

Minerals to Metals InitiativeMinerals to Metals Initiative

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