Sustainability will be the single-biggest source of competitive advantage

From Creamer Media Engineering News. May 23, 2014

Sustainability would be the single-biggest source of competitive advantage to any company in the future, mining major Exxaro Executive Head of Growth, Technology, Projects, Services and Ferrous, Ernst Venter, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event hosted jointly by Exxaro, the Southern African Innovation Network and management consultancy Blank Canvas International, he said certain mega trends, such as climate change and urbanisation, were emerging and, therefore, companies had to adapt.

Venter said, for example, Exxaro was predominately a coal company, so it would, therefore, have to find ways to remain relevant in the future – still mining coal, but perhaps in a different way.

“This is a huge opportunity and we are already working towards [producing] what we call ‘green coal’,” he noted.

He added that Exxaro would be moving towards a zero-approach, comprising aspects such as zero-waste, zero-harm and zero carbon footprint.

The company’s future plans were set out in its  New Exxaro Tomorrow (NXXT) programme.

Venter also pointed out that resources and reserves were becoming more difficult to mine and, as a result, innovation would be needed in the future mining industry.

“There are still a lot of resources, we just need the right technology to extract those,” he said, specifically referring to the Mpumalanga coalfields, which have been said lack sufficient coal to sustain State-owned power utility Eskom for much longer.

“Saying that there is no coal in Mpumalanga for Eskom is wrong. It just depends on what you do and how the complex is managed,” Venter explained.


Venter stated that for the mining industry to get from where it was today to an “industry of the future” it could not rely solely on tweaking existing technologies and processes.

“It has to be a major game-changing movement,” he said.

Exxaro had identified ten strategic thrusts that would get the current mining industry to where it would need to be by 2030.

These included smart exploration, new mining technologies, new processing technologies, asset-management logistics, clean coal technologies, innovation to zero harm, social responsibility, sustainable energy, automation and an integrated, or 'redefined' value chain.

Venter said for a company to be relevant in the mining industry of 2030 it would need to have a sustainable licence to operate, which included aspects such as creating inclusive wealth for all stakeholders, having a balanced partnership with government and the community, having a small footprint and creating an economically self-sustaining community beyond the life-of-mine.

When a mine reached the end of its life, something else would have to replace it to benefit the community, he pointed out.

Further, mining companies, in 2030, would also have to make use of smart exploration methods, have 100% resource extraction and focus on 'zero-waste' and 'zero harm'.

Mining companies would also have to be energy, carbon and water neutral, hybrid-, renewable- or alternative-energy solutions would have to be used and mines would need to reflect an integrated, optimised and refined value chain.

 BY Leandi Kolver is a Senior Staff Writer for Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Tel: +2711 622 3744 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Edited by: Tracy Hancock