Building an SA Mining Innovation Ecosystem

The South African mining industry is fighting a desperate fight for survival in the face of ultra-deep resources, social pressure, and political uncertainty

The long history of mining in the country has resulted in our remaining ore bodies being found increasingly at significant depths (in excess of 4km, for example, for gold), not to mention declining ore grades. The technical feasibility of extracting ore is therefore increasingly opaque.

In addition, the extremely fraught social and political landscape make long term investment into both exploration and R&D extremely difficult – particularly at a time when many important local commodities (such as platinum) are beneath economically feasible prices.

In the face of this, the industry faces a fundamental question – how can it move effectively into the automated and mechanised future that is necessary to continue extracting ore competitively, while ensuring this is done in a just and human-centred manner that does not further exclude millions of South Africans from economic participation?

As one part of solving this extremely wicked problem, RIIS has been supporting the mining industry to build a comprehensive innovation ecosystem that can develop both the technological and human innovation needed.

This ecosystem, developed in conjunction with partners the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is designed to reduce risk across the entire innovation value chain.

RIIS coordinates various activities and programmes within this ecosystem, facilitating engagements such as world cafes, ideation sessions, design sprints, rapid prototyping, hackathons and open innovation challenges – whatever is necessary to drive the industry forward.