Q&A With Outgoing Minerals Council South Africa CEO Roger Baxter - Business Media MAGS

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Q&A With Outgoing Minerals Council South Africa CEO Roger Baxter

One of the industry’s most well-known faces and voices, Roger Baxter leaves his role as CEO of the Minerals Council SA after 30 years with the organisation. We asked him to outline both the challenges and positives of his time in charge.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced during your time as CEO of the Minerals Council?

A: In 1992 I joined the then Chamber of Mines as a junior economist. The Chamber was an organisation of more than 600 people and the sector was pretty much pale and male, a very hierarchical, patriarchal sort of industry. In fact, the Minerals Council SA (MCSA) appointed a woman as president for the first time in its more than 130 years of history when Nolitha Fakude, Anglo American South Africa chairwoman, was appointed in the role in 2021. 

The period when I joined witnessed a huge amount of distrust, when the ANC was unbanned, about the Chamber of Mines and what it stood for. We have done an extraordinary amount of work to address that. Today, the Minerals Council is seen as one of the most effective business advocacy and representative organisations in South Africa. 

One of the biggest recent challenges and frustrations has been the deterioration in energy security and the enormous potential it has cost not just mining but the economy. This is made worse when one considers the Energy Policy White Paper that was negotiated in 1998. I was one of the four business negotiators on the team who negotiated a pragmatic, globally acceptable energy policy white paper. Had that been implemented, South Africa wouldn’t be in the position it’s in now from a load shedding point of view.

Another challenge and frustration is the declining performance of rail transport of minerals. We have forfeited tens of billions of rand in revenue and critically needed taxes in recent years. 

Q: What would you say has been the defining mining issue during your tenure, and what role did the Council play in solving/mitigating it?

A: Safety and health have been, and remain, the key issue in mining. The industry is committed to achieving zero harm, and half our annual budget is spent on health and safety. When I joined the MCSA in 1992, the industry had 551 fatalities that year. If we look at 2022, the industry had the lowest number of fatalities on record with 49 deaths. 

We have made significant progress in addressing underlying safety issues, but we have more to do. At the MCSA, we are working hard to develop and share industry best practices, encouraging our members to adopt them. We have certainly seen step changes in safety performances and the work that the Minerals Council will continue to drive.

Q: What are your plans for the future – can we still expect to see you in the mining sector, and if so, doing what? 

A: I’ve worked consistently for 32 years without a real break. So it’s time to be with my family and take a bit of a sabbatical. I played rugby in my youth so if I can give the analogy of being a Springbok supporter all your life, it’s not easy to support anyone else. I’ve been in the mining industry all my working life, so it’s fair to say it’s in my blood. I have a decade of work life ahead of me, so I’ll be back in the future, but in what shape or form, I’m not saying just yet. Watch this space.

Q: As you leave the MCSA, having been its recognisable face for so long, do you have any final words or messages for the local mining sector?

A: I’m confident the MCSA is in safe hands. The new Minerals Council CEO, Mzila Mthenjane, from Exxaro, is very experienced in industry issues. I have no doubt he’ll make his own positive and indelible footprint on the organisation.

I also have no doubt the MCSA and its leadership will keep on pushing the positive reform agenda, and being the change that they want to see. I’m a firm believer that with them, we will achieve the aim of #MakingMiningMatter.  


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