The impact of loadshedding on South Africa’s mining sector has been considerable. According to Statistics South Africa, mining output slowed almost 2% in September 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, largely due to the country’s power crisis. This was the third month in a row that output dropped off.

Together with a severe decline in infrastructural stability as well as Transnet’s ongoing woes, the mining industry has lost some R150 billion in export value in the past 12 months.

“Mining operations cannot be reliant on Eskom’s power supply and scheduled downtime,” notes Muhammad Ali, managing director of ISO specialist, World Wide Industrial & Systems Engineers. “This impacts production targets, market share price and shareholder confidence. This in turn has a huge impact on the economy. Mining companies have invested heavily in diesel generators or alternative energy such as solar plants, but all these expenses make the cost of mining high in South Africa, and investors are losing confidence and looking to put their money elsewhere.”

With profits falling, mining house are spending less on crucial areas like safety, health and environmental programmes.

Ali says the situation has necessitated that top management come up with innovative and impactful mitigation strategies – and one of the ways they are doing this is by turning to standardisation.

The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) comprises more than 160 national standards bodies and develops and publishes a wide range of proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. In 2022 alone, it published almost 25 000 international standards and standards-type documents.

South Africa is a major contributor to standardisation processes in Africa.

“With the energy constraints, mining houses are looking to implement international best practice standards like ISO 50 001:2018, where the capital investments of solar or renewable energy are aligned with the Paris Accord striving for net zero,” Ali explains.

“Standards like ISO 14065 allow organisations to establish greenhouse gas emissions and take the necessary action.  These standards also assist in identifying significant energy use assets, which then can be tailored to reduce consumption, but optimise production. Mathematical planning allows mining houses to reduce the cost of downtime.”

Standards like ISO 50 001:2018 Energy Management Systems are a must for companies, as they enable them to calculate the return on their investment for alternative energy sources and initiatives. “Basically, not subscribing to the standard will result in unplanned downtime.”

Standardisation also plays an important role in reducing the risk of injuries in the mining sector.

In November last year, a cage carrying workers at the Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg fell to the bottom of a shaft due to issues with a winder rope, resulting in the death of 11 employees. A total of 86 miners were involved in the incident. Ali says standards like ISO 45001:2018 and regular audits of companies in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act are vital.

“Organisations tend to be fearful of audits when these systems are aligned to international standards and local legislation. In South Africa, audit findings are perceived as negative, given they affect key performance indicators. However, findings should rather be encouraged. An expert is appointed to assist the organisation to improve. By making top management accountable for poor maintenance plans and budget reductions that may put lives at risk, the company will be better off all-round.”

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