Summit to highlight critical minerals processing

08 Sep 2023

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Mining technology, critical mineral processing, and skills to drive a low carbon future and just energy transition will be discussed at an upcoming summit hosted by the Wits Mining Institute (WMI) on September 28 and 29.

“Our first focus aims to promote research and innovation in the exploration, extraction and processing of critical raw materials that are essential for a sustainable and just energy transition,” says WMI director Professor Glen Nwaila, adding that it has “become imperative to achieve the global target of net zero emissions by 2050”.

Another focus is the importance of circular economy principles in the mining industry. In this instance, the summit will explore secondary sources of metals, such as stockpiles and metallurgical tailings, and discuss how the mining industry can transition to a service-oriented model.

“This contrasts with the traditional ownership model, and instead aims to achieve a metal for subscription model that is relevant to modern investors, consumers and employees who have become more socially conscious,” he explains.

To be held at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in Johannesburg, the Twenty-first Century Mining Technology, Skills and Exhibition event will focus on four key areas, namely integrated critical raw materials for the just energy transition, circular mining and minerals, digital technologies and cybersecurity, and waterless mining.

According to Nwaila, the event represents over a decade of partnership between gold miner Sibanye-Stillwater and the WMI.

Aside from sponsoring WMI's flagship centre – the Sibanye-Stillwater DigiMine – Sibanye-Stillwater also recently sponsored the newly refurbished and rebranded Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation bridge, which links the East and West campuses.

This year, the WMI summit collaboration includes sponsorship from mining organisations South32, African Rainbow Minerals, Impala Platinum, Datamine, Ramjack Technology Solutions, Schauenburg Systems, Gold One, Accenture and the Mandela Mining Precinct.

In hosting the summit, the WMI has also joined forces with the Wits Business School.

As advancements in digital technologies transform the mining landscape, the summit will address the challenges and opportunities of implementing digital technologies such as material traceability, or fingerprinting of commodities from mining operation to the market. These solutions will have to be applied while ensuring robust cybersecurity measures, responsible use of artificial intelligence and effective governance.

“Water scarcity is another pressing concern for many mining regions, so the summit will highlight innovative technologies and collaborative strategies that enable waterless mining processes,” he says, highlighting that progress on this front will reduce the industry's environmental impact and help ensure sustainable resource management for water security in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

As the host organisation, the WMI advances research, innovation and collaboration in the mining industry, with a strong focus on cutting-edge technologies and sustainable practices.

“The WMI summit will be a unique platform bringing together industry leaders, experienced academics, students and stakeholders from the mining sector – to exchange knowledge, share insights and explore the latest advancements in mining to envision future trajectories,” Nwaila further notes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer