Join Plenary Speaker, GSSA Past President and CSA Global Manager-Africa, Sifiso Siwela at the Geocongress 2023 when he presents on ‘What does the future look like for geosciences in Africa; an industry perspective” between 11-13 January 2023 at the University of Stellenbosch campus, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
This three day event bought together by The Department of Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch University, the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA), and the Igneous and Metamorphic Studies Group (IMSG) will aim to cover “The next 125 years of Earth Sciences”, with an aim of highlighting current geoscience research and industry practice, while simultaneously looking forward to where we perceive that this important scientific discipline will develop in the future.
The conference aims to cover a broad spectrum of geoscience topics that will include both traditional disciplines (e.g., economic geology; environmental geology; igneous petrology; metamorphic petrology; exploration geology; geochemistry; geochronology; geohydrology; geophysics; mineralogy; mining; sedimentary geology; and structural geology); and less traditional and forward-looking themes such as Big Data in Earth Sciences, Geotourism, and Earth Science Education.
With the demand for critical metals, especially from Africa, the critical skills to discover these and therefore geosciences, are even more relevant.
Exploration budgets have continued to rise post the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by the demand for green metals and electric vehicles as part of the low carbon energy transition. The economic climate, albeit the minerals industry experiencing a recession in the short term, is expected to improve due to the demand for these minerals. The green energy transition requires mines to be already in operation. Therefore, some of Africa’s prospective mineral belts for critical metals including nickel, copper, graphite, lithium and manganese in countries such as DRC, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, etc, are experiencing a revitalisation in exploration. Besides traditional hotspots in West Africa, the DRC and southern Africa, newer mining regions in Morocco and eastern Africa are also experiencing renewed exploration and mining interest. Mergers and acquisitions are expected to continue not only in these critical minerals, but also gold and PGEs.
Socio-political factors also affected the minerals industry and many geoscientists globally. Political risk in some jurisdictions is not only affecting exploration for minerals, but also favourably and unfavourably affecting supply and demand dynamics, commodity prices.
ESG and compliance has been even more important for exploration and mining projects, not only on the environmental and social license to operate, but also governance. The ESG drive globally has created opportunities for some geoscientists who are playing a critical role. This includes an appreciation of elements such as mine closure and rehabilitation, including tailings management. These aspects, including UN sustainable Development Goals will be in the geoscientist toolkit for sustaining the “green” geologist in future.
With the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution driving big data and machine learning, the new-age geoscientist should have the critical skills to effectively utilise this data and technology in the discovery of minerals, which is becoming even more challenging. Geologists will be equipped with skills in geometallurgy and mineralogy, which are key for determining part of the viability of projects, including those at the early stages of the mine value chain. The future of work has brought about borderless ways of working with the potential for work globally for geoscientists. Geoscientists in Africa are now commonly working in countries outside the continent, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The ability to operate in historically high-risk jurisdictions has also improved.
The research and development components will be even more important to unearth these undiscovered deposits, and advances in methodology and technology will enhance prospectivity research. Academics will play a role in tailoring the education of new-age geologists. Geophysical and geochemical techniques continue to improve relative to the changing minerals industry; therefore, those disciplines will continue to be applied in the minerals industry.
The world is changing fast and is suffering an economic crisis, but geoscientists are more crucial to our society than ever before.
Manager – Africa
Sifiso Siwela is Manager – Africa at CSA Global and specialises in exploration strategy design, mineral project valuations, Mineral Resource estimation and reviews as well as due diligence reviews. He has some 20 years’ consulting experience in various commodities including base metals, precious metals, precious stones and industrial minerals. Prior to joining CSA Global, he was Senior Manager at Deloitte Technical Mining Advisory and was responsible for managing global multi-disciplinary projects across mine value chain strategic exploration planning, target generation, the life of mine audits and strategy design. He is the Immediate Past President of the Geological Society of South Africa and is the Vice Chair of the SAMCODES Standards Committee. He has also lectured on compliance and reporting at Wits University and geochemistry at Rhodes University.