The opportunity to observe activities around a new mine being developed by Canyon Coal in Mpumalanga proved to be an invaluable experience for Mining Journalism Training (MJT) attendees.

This year, Menar Academy hosted 17 trainees including journalists and journalism students who got an opportunity to tour the Gugulethu colliery operations as part of the two-day programme held on 18 and 19 October. The first day of training happened at Menar’s Sandton headquarters, followed by the mine tour on the second day.

Radio broadcaster Malebeko Sadiki says she gained crucial information through the lectures and the mine tour. “As someone who initially had no prior knowledge of the mining industry, I can confidently say that this programme has transformed my perspective and equipped me with a deep understanding of this complex field.”

The trainees arrived to the bustling scenery of articulated dump trucks and excavators moving around the site. They were issued with protective gear and taken through safety protocols before embarking on a tour of the pit and processing plant, accompanied by the mine’s general manager, Jarmi Steyn.

The day before the mine visit, trainees attended seminars conducted by seven guest speakers at Menar House in Sandton. Various topics including mining health & safety, policy, illegal mining, and critical minerals were covered during the sessions. Dr Sandile Nogxina delivered a presentation on the history of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and its transformative role.

Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane spoke on the importance of stakeholder relations in mining while award-winning journalist Lucas Ledwaba shared his experience of covering the tragic Marikana Massacre in 2012, using the story to discuss critical themes such as the role of journalists in upholding democracy.

Journalist Lindiwe Tsobo says the sessions were insightful. “Besides providing a thorough look into the sector, all the speakers were of high calibre and brought thought-provoking discussions to the table.”

Speaking on South Africa’s unique geology, Professor Nikki Wagner described the country as a geological wonderland due its endowment of world-class mineral deposits. Geologist Kgothatso Nhlengetwa addressed the issue of policy gaps that make South Africa vulnerable to illegal mining practices.

Solomon Maseko, also a trainee, says the programme enabled him to get a deeper understanding of mining. “It provided an eye-opening opportunity to delve into an industry that plays an instrumental role in our global economy and the lives of countless individuals.”

Solidarity Union secretary-general Gideon Du Plessis discussed the dynamics surrounding media statements and wage negations. Richard Spoor Attorneys director George Kahn, who discussed health and safety within the context of South African mining, was the final speaker for the first day of the MJT programme.

One of the MJT highlights is an article competition, whereby attendees get to write about their experiences. The overall winner is awarded with a cash prize.

Since its inception in 2017, MJT has provided a platform for media practitioners to engage with industry experts and visit mining sites. The programme is carefully designed to cover industry topics that concern operations, policy, the economy, labour relations and mining’s impact on citizens. The aim of this initiative is to make the mining story more accessible, and support journalists in their mission to tell compelling stories about one of the most important industries in the country.

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