OGIES, Mpumalanga Mining and marketing giant Glencore, which recently provided R2.76-million in funding for the LaunchPad video mentoring facility for learners in the Phola community of Mpumalanga, on Friday also launched a R75-million state-of-the-art school in Phola for learners in the provinces coalfields, where it has a number of coal operations.

The London-, Hong Kong- and Johannesburg-listed Glencore handedSand Making Machine over the Makause Secondary School to South Africas Department of Education as part of its social and labour plan commitment to the Department of Mineral Resources.

Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg flew in to be a part of the celebrations, where South Africas Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga officiated at a plaque unveiling.

The LaunchPad facility links the rural community to global video mentors in the US and Canada from Phola, which provides employees to Glencores Tweefontein colliery, which earlier this year completed a R8.21-billion optimisation.

The school which caters for pre-primary, primary and secondary grades, has 32 classrooms, science laboratory, home economics facility, wood and metal workshops, library, computer centre and a school hall that can accommodate 1 200 pupils.

It is very important for us to invest in the communities in which we operate, as this is part of our social and labour plan commitment. This development project ensures that the children of the people who work at our mines have schools that they can attend. In the long run, we can benefit as these children can, in about 25 years time, be engineers at our operations, Glasenberg told Creamer Medias Mining Weekly Online in an interview.

The project also includes a housing development in Phola, completed at a cost of an additional R70-million to accommodate 120 relocated families.

This school was built to ensure that the children of Phola have access to the best possible educational facilities, helping them to become South Africas champions of the future, said Glencore South Africa Coal CEO Clinton Ephron.

An investment in education of this magnitude demonstrates the Sand Making Machine commitment of Glencore to the future of the country, Motshekga commented.

Commenting on the coal market, Glasenberg noted that, despite the fall in global prices, Glencore remained positive about the future growth in coal demand, especially in developing countries.

In places like India, which is now importing 200-million tonnes of coal, demand will grow to 250-million tonnes and potentially 350-million tonnes, he added.

Further, Glasenberg told Mining Weekly Online that the seaborne coal market would see continued growth.

Commenting on the ongoing decrease in investment in coal projects as a result of volatile commodity prices, he stressed that investors had to assess the market before investing.

Companies must not build too much [capacity] if the demand is not there. Owing to this, as a company, if the demand for coal is not there, we will cut production. The demand has to be tied to the supply, which for now looks pretty balanced, he stated.

He forecast that investments in new mining supply would start again in 2017/18.

LAUNCHPAD FACILITY

Glencore collaborated with global mentoring organisation Infinite Family to create the LaunchPad facility, and the partnership aims to bridge the technological, geographical and cultural gap between teenagers in Phola and those at the heart of the technologically driven twenty-first century.

Built out of renovated shipping containers, the mentoring Quarry Crusher facility has 2 Mb of Internet connection plus a battery back-up system.

Learners from Mehlwana Secondary School and other schools in the area are able to get homework assistance, have access to health and medical resources, research possible career paths and discover which further education courses are applicable.

This is achieved through weekly face-to-face video mentoring sessions via the Internet.

In February this year, the first class of 30 mentees, or net buddies, were connected with their global video mentors in the US and Canada.

During the course of the year, Glencore and the Infinite Family plan to add more net-buddy classes in order for more teenagers to benefit from the global video mentorship.

Working with their mentors on a one-on-one video monitoring session, the net buddies will focus on developing their technological literacy, career preparation, communications and life skills.

This initiative is a breakthrough in education as it gives pupils from previously disadvantaged communities an opportunity to be mentored by experts from across a wide range of disciplines, Ephron said.