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Mining giant commits a further R16.5 million towards education and research

- Wits University

Wits University has received a donation of R16.5 million from mining giant Sibanye-Stillwater to support the development of scarce skills and research in mining

Universities and mining working together for a brighter and more sustainable industry

The announcement was made by Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater at panel discussion themed Focuson Education: Gateway to the Future on Tuesday, 26 January 2021. This contribution is the largest by the organisation to Wits University and a continuation of a strategic relationship dating back to 2013. This renewed support brings the investment into the university to approximately R60 million.

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, welcomed the generous donation and Sibanye-Stillwater’s commitment to the future.

“This will enable us to do what we do best,” said Vilakazi before sharing figures on the progress facilitated by support from the mining giant.

The ongoing pursuit of knowledge and innovation that will unlock reserves at deep levels has generated 18 research publications, driven by a cohort of young Wits students and graduates in advanced degrees such as Masters and Doctorates in areas where there are a limited number of dedicated researchers, said Vilakazi.

The Wits Digimine, supported by the mining organisation, has contributed to mine safety through exploring the use of sensors and digital systems to give advance warning to miners of underground health and safety risks. Fast-tracked projects in the Wits Mining Institute and the Digimine are dedicated towards making the (autonomous) mine of the future happen through integration of data and artificial intelligence systems. Most recently Wits students produced close to 6700 face shields that were distributed to Sibanye-Stillwater’s SA mines and community members

Froneman said the “provision of high quality education is a vital requirement if we are to grow the economy to address poverty and inequality”.

“As a Group, our core purpose is that our mining improves lives, and as such we are committed to education and the development of the next generation of South African mining engineers.”

In addition to Wits, Sibanye also supports the University of Johannesburg.

The virtual discussion was watched by hundreds and discussion points ranged from the relevance of research and innovation, as well as the impact of the 4th and the 5th industrial revolution on the sector and jobs.

Discussants put to rest the fear of job losses as a result of the mechanised mines and robots.

Vilakazi argued that South Africa needs to be nimble and take advantage of the opportunity presented by the changing world. 

“It’s not about men against robots or men against the machines. It’s going to be men with machines against men without machines. It is up to us as human beings to decide how we harness technologies by changing the way we think, we teach and bringing as many people online as possible,” said Vilakazi.