The benefits of joining an association

Belonging to an association has a number of advantages.

By Matthew Wood.

Joining an association has a number of benefits, particularly in the world of mining. So, what are the ins and outs? There are many benefits to joining a mining association, from gaining industry knowledge to staying ahead of the competition. For a well-rounded understanding, MMPR approached the Mine Professional Associations Secretariats (MPAS) of South Africa’s Chamber of Mines.

The MPAS is the platform for doing the administration concerned with the 11 associations that fall under it. These include:

1. Association of Mine Financial Administrative Managers (AMFAM)
2. Association of the Mining Industry Human Resources Practitioners (AMIHRP)
3. Association of Mine Resident Engineers SA (AMRE)
4. Mine Metallurgical Managers Association of South Africa (MMMA)
5. SA Colliery Administrative and Financial Managers (SACAFMA)
6. SA Collieries Engineers Association (SACEA)
7. SA Environmental Practice Association (SACEPA)
8. SA Colliery Human Resources Association (SACHRA)
9. SA Colliers' Managers Association (SACMA)
10. Mine Medical Professional Association (MMPA)
11. Association of Mine Managers of SA (AMMSA)

MPAS secretariat Simon Orchardson shared insight into the benefits of joining an association, not just from a chamber point of view, but from a general perspective.

“The associations represent the employer fraternity. We don’t police our members a lot but they need to remain professional, and they do,” said Orchardson. The big ones are the associations concerned with mine managers and they are broken into coal managers, and hard rock managers (which is everything else – platinum, diamond, copper, manganese, chrome, iron, gold etc.).

“Some of these associations have been around for as long as 125 years. Whichever associations are being referred to, their benefits are exactly the same. Generally all our members are from larger mines. Each member pays a subscription to be a member of an association,” explained Orchardson.

Knowledge is power
The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) on the other hand is a technical association and publishes technical papers. The chamber associations aim to complement the SAIMM and other technical institutions.

SAIMM president Rodney Trevor Jones says that although there have been some issues, scientific publishing continues to thrive, and emphasises that electronic technology drives the manner in which scientific outcomes are communicated.

“SAIMM is different to the technical associations. We do technical things, but everything is geared towards practicality or practical knowledge. Members share knowledge through seminars, meetings, conferences, technical visits and/or workshops,” said Orchardson.

Networking capacity is the single biggest innovation that has occurred in the last 10 years due to the advent of social media.

“Generally, being a member to an association allows one to network, share knowledge and develop contacts that enable a member to pick up the phone, phone somebody and ask how a problem may be solved,” he said.

Members can also network with managers and engineers, visit mines and see if there is anything currently important to the mining industry (such as proximity detection or collision avoidance technology) thereby offering other mines leads and information.

Members of these associations have been socialising over the past 100 years, but technology has caught up with the idea. Networking capacity is the single biggest innovation that has occurred in the last 10 years due to the advent of social media.

The mines don’t compete on safety, but talking about price and cost are taboo subjects and are discouraged.

“Somebody will usually publish a safety report, report a solution and share that knowledge. Papers are available on the internet to the public, or as a member you can acquire these papers first hand,” said Orchardson.

Difference between unions and associations
Unions, the Department of Mineral Resources and the associations often meet to develop greater understanding and share knowledge.

The big difference between belonging to an association and a union is that, unlike a union, the mines pay for a member’s subscription to an association and the associations are not in financial conflict. The chamber associations fall under the chamber’s employer grouping.

Another difference is that associations mostly share knowledge, while still retaining the power to get together and make their voices heard, such as formalising and amending constitutions through a voting system. The Mining Charter is driven by the Chamber, and the Chamber is helped by the associations.

Education
Associations also support final year varsity students through interacting with a variety of universities, while chamber members sit on the board of the Mining Qualifications Authority.

The associations are also affiliated with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), a governing/legislating body. A mining engineer should join ECSA because it is the bond that helps keep one’s licence to practice (also driven through information and knowledge sharing).

Beyond South Africa
“We used to have a close tie between our managers and those from Zimbabwe’s Chamber of Mines. Their mine managers’ association is not as strong as it used to be, but it will come back as more mining takes place,” continued Orchardson.

The case is the same with Namibia as well and the associations also visit the Copperbelt and Mozambique. This tends to be expensive, as usually 30 to 35 members will attend, but a technical visit is important to see how things are done in other countries.

Final thoughts
Overr 100 years ago, when the Chamber associations were established in the early days of mining, gold production saw a significant increase within a very short period of time. This happened with coal in Natal during the same period, especially to avert crises. This is still done today, except now it’s driven through social media like WhatsApp, so a problem can be addressed far more swiftly.

  • Read more online: (Due to space limitations MMPR have placed the Association of Mine Managers’ presidential opening address by JH Jones, held on 17 July 1893 online to illustrate the foundations of the impact an association had on the mining industry, and can continue to do so today – visit www.miningafricaonline.co.za for a copy).

In a nutshell, an association seeks views and generates solutions, which is what continues to drive the mining industry today.

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