Here is an announcement that Gold Fields in South Africa is supporting my alma mater:
Gold Fields’ investment in the Wits University School of Mining Engineering is expected to make a major contribution towards alleviating the skills shortages in the South Africa mining sector. The three-year, R18 million partnership includes the recently opened Gold Fields Engineering Library, equipment for the Mine Design Computer Lab, a substantial upgrade of the Rock Engineering Laboratory and the establishment of the Gold Fields Associate Lectureship programme. Gold Fields also funds bursaries and provides engineering students with vacation work.
Gold Fields has survived many a strike and made many layoffs at their mines in South Africa. I hope that they, nevertheless, continue to support Wits.
In a log cabin overlooking a lake nestling in a glacial-carved valley, we chatted about asset management.
“If they layoff their head office staff, including the engineers, they will be unable to function,” was my opinion.
“Wrong,” the reply. “They are moving to an asset management structure. This means that the mine manager or their equivalent is made the mine asset manager. It is their role & responsibility to manage the asset, the mine, to maximum profit. Head office will merely own the asset and will demand a specific performance & profit. No more of that dictatorial oversight by head-office engineers. If those engineers want to earn a salary, let them sell themselves to the asset managers—in competition with commercial consultants.”
“Does that not put an emphasis on short-term profit?” I asked.
“Of course,” the reply. “But that is the best way for the asset owner and shareholders. It involves fair competition, the services of the most competent, and immediate returns on investment.”
“And what of the long term, including closure?” I asked.
“Sacrificed on the altar of immediate profit. If the government cannot set and enforce laws & regulations to get sufficient bonding and money for closure, that is their fault, and the consequence flows to the ultimate taxpayer.”
Oh dear! So we ordered another beer and drank to success and profit: three large houses; American investment property; luxury cars; first-class flights; and fancy meals.
I confess to all these sins—although the kids live in the American houses and drive the fancy cars—mine is five-years old and has no air conditioner or automatic locks. I bought a new cars for my recently-graduated daughter: a mere $16K; five-years repayment at zero percent interest; and full service & warranty included. That is having somebody else pay you to drive your car. The other daughter and spouse drive luxury hybrids.
Yet I struggle to reconcile these opposing pictures and clashing facts. I confess to spending large sums on books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. Quite a bit too on courting and other associated pleasures. I drive a simple, old car; ride expensive bicycles; and drink terrible expensive liquor. Yet I instinctively subscribe to simplicity. I have not redecorated the house: the toilets are as installed when the house was built in 1975; the kitchen cupboards fell off years ago and I have not replaced them; the windows are single-pained (sic) and I put plastic over them in the winter; the floors are devoid of carpets and are painted with expensive floor-paint.
I travel a lot to see kids & grandkids. I confess to spending large sums at Target on them. Have you ever tried to outfit five kids for summer or winter at Target? Well over a thousand to do this, and this gets only simple basics. Damn me, I deserve a bottle of the best cognac after that shopping spree!
Mining is the source of the money I spend and squander. I am luck that even past 65 there are mines that value my advice. I grieve, however, for those thrown out of work when companies reduce staff and adopt & implement the asset-management approach. Those now out of work are like me: engineers of experience & skill. They are now fretting about balancing budgets and selling to new clients to pay to feed and educate kids.
That is the way of the world. That is the crash of the super-cycle of mining. That is free-market competition. That is growing old, saving, investing, and being frugal. In this new world?
CAUTION: Although the above is based on fact, much is fiction. I invent & distort conversations to make my point. Do not take any of this seriously and do not blame me if you know more. Afterall this is a blog, I am a blogger, and my aim is to entertain, challenge, and only incidentally inform.