Contribution of the Minerals Industry towards Sustainable Development in South Africa
South Africa is a leading producer of a number of mineral commodities, and the minerals industry is a key driver of the South African economy. Ensuring that this mineral wealth is exploited in a manner consistent with the principles of sustainable development requires policies and strategies that are underpinned by a well-developed understanding of the challenges, opportunities and trade-offs involved. To this end, this paper analyses the status quo of the primary metal and coal based minerals industry in South Africa according to its performance relative to the five capitals of sustainable development (financial, manufactured, social, human and natural). This survey provides the platform for the identification of opportunities for further research and development in four key areas: technology and processes; resources and the environment; human and research capacity; and the socio-technical sphere. The study shows that the South African minerals industry faces serious challenges in the future, both in developing and implementing the technologies needed to sustain the industry and its significant contribution to economic growth and human development, and in developing and retaining the skills needed for this. These challenges also provide an opportunity for South Africa to leapfrog into a new paradigm in which it recovers and strengthens its global leadership role in the area of minerals exploitation. Realising this opportunity will require partnerships and collaboration between government, industry, local communities and academic institutions to develop the research programmes and teaching curricula needed to sustain the sector over the long-term.
Keywords: Minerals industry, South Africa, sustainable development